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Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg may have initially stolen folk lovers’ hearts with their video cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which portrays the flannel-clad pair in the middle of the woods around the time their first EP came out in 2008. But while the rendition racked up the views on YouTube, the Söderbergs, who go by the name First Aid Kit, are just as capable with their own music. Four years later, their second full-length album The Lion’s Roar proves the duo’s pleasantness as singers and songwriters with its lingering melodies and understated lyrics. Their vocals sound as if they’re suspended in a soft cloud, and their harmonies are practically angelic. “Blue” is a cleverly conflicting song and one of the album’s best tracks: the music twinkles and exudes sweetness while the lyrics could easily be transplanted into an emo song (“Died in a car accident when he was only twenty two/ And then you just decided love wasn’t for you/ And every year since then has proved it to be true”).
With the help of the album photography and laid-back feel, it’s hard to imagine these songs being performed anywhere beside around a campfire in the middle of a grassy pasture, with an audience consisting solely of woodland creatures. And then the pedal steel graciously reminds the listener that the album was recorded in Omaha, Nebraska. The Lion’s Roar is also an album heavy with indie collaboration: Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes produced, mixed, and engineered the album, and Conor Oberst cowrote and provided vocals on the final track, “King of the World”.
The opening moments of “I Found A Way” are cooly foreboding with its flute cameo and dark nature. And then in the first verse, it picks its pace up into a gallop, morphing into an anthem for a prairie-ranger heroine. “Dance to Another Tune” also begins with a somewhat melancholy air to it, but as the song progresses toward the middle and end, it reveals some of the most moving parts of the album with the help of gorgeous string accompaniments and a change of pace. There are fun instrumental cameos elsewhere throughout the album, featuring mandolins, trumpets, and accordions, which all help to keep the album feel varied and interesting. The ten songs on The Lion’s Roar balance waves of wistfulness and optimism, and the album feels like it’s waking up just as winter thaws into spring, coaxing the listener to leave the house and take an aimless stroll.