Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #33 - First Aid Kit, "The Lion's Roar"

I've heard a sampler version of this album already and been quite looking forward to the whole enchilada. So I'm strapping on my bandelero of insight and stimulating my own internal peyote gland to see where we end up.

The first and title track sounds like early Eighties' country crossover hit "Camoflage" by Stan Ridgway. And that already stabs at the heart of the issues that knot about my appreciation of this album.

I love the pedal steel on "Emmylou" (I love pedal steel in anything) and the triumphant and tender close harmony vocals and the setting of the scene in a wintry Stockholm. But it stands so proudly in the Middle of the Road that I can't clasp it hard to my bosom. I recognise it's my problem. I like music with crispier edges; or is it soggier edges?

One time I found myself in the south-ish of Sweden in a town called Stora Hoga, watching an interterminably-long lottery show on national television. I watching with a Norwegian, who snorted derisively when another country band came out to perform, "Swedes all think they're fucking cowboys". I think First Aid Kit are wandering about in that big America of the mind. I certainly wouldn't pick them for Scandanavian from listening to them. I'm not sure why that bothers me either, but those "darlin"s stick in my ears.

The lyrics have a straightforward quality, almost conversational. Like "It always takes me by surprise how quickly it gets dark this time of year." And there's a theme of being genuine - with fake laughs, telling herself to be sincere. Or am I listening too hard there for some ontological doubt creeping about underneath the text? Also a lot of distance and separation, which again you might expect, eh? And I like that it's set in the present without being marked by obvious references to 21st century life.

 "I Found A Way" signals that things are getting more sombre, less bell-like shine in their voices and some spidery Spanish guitar laying down the doom-laden romance. "Dance To Another Tune" heads further out into that direction, a Pixies-feel to the lupine "oooohs" at the end. "New Year's Eve" has a list of resolutions backed by a zither-y instrument and what sounds like a thumb being run over a comb (nice!) and the refrain "That's what's going to save me". These three tracks have a feel all the sweeter for the sense of darkness keeping them warm.

"I wasn't born to say anything/I'm just here now and soon I'll be gone": now that's a folk lyric, even when set to some Nordic cajun blowout. That's something you can listen to at a campfire.

Rating: Nashville out of Sodermanland

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