Yes, they’re Swedish. No, they don’t sound like ABBA.
Sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg make up the remarkable folk duo First Aid Kit, singing their bittersweet, narrative-rich songs in tight, country-twanged harmonies. The pair skyrocketed to fame in their teens as an online sensation with their polished cover of Tiger Mountain Peasant Song in 2008. The sisters demonstrated their serious artistic chops with their follow-up album The Big Black and the Blue (2010), completed while Klara was still in high school. They followed this gem with The Lion’s Roar (2012), its lead single “Emmylou” noted as one of the top 10 singles of the year by Rolling Stone.
“Lots of people write storytelling songs…set to acoustic music and do pretty harmonies, but First Aid Kit transcends that cliché. Their songs sound like they’ve gone away and seen too much and come back tired but still alive”, writes Tavi Gevinson in Rookie.
Klara’s clear, voice-throwing lead vocals and finger-picking guitar lines are complemented by older sister Johanna’s rich harmonies and accompaniment on the keyboard and autoharp. Upbeat tempos drive mature, sometimes melancholy lyrics. Similar to how the 22-year-old T.S Eliot convincingly took on the persona of a self-conscious middle-aged man in The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, the sisters (22 and 25 respectively) belt out tales of female characters coping with adultery (Tangerine), struggling to love again (Blue), and searching for themselves (Waitress Song) with a startling authenticity. As well, country music’s familiar trope of celebrating faith in God is both thoughtfully and provocatively undermined in the songs Hard Believer and Heaven Knows.
“We want our music to work as a means of consolation, as a way of making life a bit more bearable for people. A First Aid Kit for the soul,” the sisters explain of their group’s name.
Graduating from the minimalism of their début album (recorded in Johanna’s bedroom), their music’s wall-of-sound lushness soars in their third studio album Stay Gold (2014), proving the depths and versatility of the sisters’ talents. Together, they’re at the forefront of a revival in folk music appreciation for a new generation.
So go ahead. Take a chance on these Swedish sisters.