Listen to this track by Scandinavian country-folk-indie duo and close-harmony sirens First Aid Kit. It’s “Silver Lining”, a lead single as taken from this year’s album Stay Gold, their third.
Drawing from a love of acts ranging from Bright Eyes to the Carter Family, First Aid Kit is made up of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, both of Enskede, a borough of Stockholm. Their sound draws from traditions of early country music that’s pretty far removed from what listeners might expect from a couple of Swedes in their early twenties, having started performing together and even writing songs by the time they were in their early teens. And that’s another unexpected dimension to their music; they work within a tradition that values experience that comes with age, and manage to pull it off despite their tender years.
Basically, everything about this band is unexpected, which besides their obvious natural talent may be why they’ve been able to get to work with luminaries like Patti Smith, Fleet Foxes, and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. So what does this song illustrate in keeping with the traditions in which they’re hooking into, and the strengths of the band in general?
Well, I think the first thing that stands out for me is their voices, closely interlocked as if they are indeed one voice. This texture is big in the dusty old country-folk tradition, of course. But, what really kicks in here is that mysterious alchemy that becomes apparent when siblings sing together, which is still another part of the tradition with the aforementioned Carter Family, The Louvins, the Stanleys, and the Everlys being prime examples. Country music as we know it started with families singing together after all.
Another part of the equation is the understanding that both singers have of taking dark themes and contrasting them with light lyrical textures, interpreting them so as to create some pretty compelling emotional undercurrents. Country music and folk music of the American south has always dealt in some pretty stark subject matter, desperation and of survival; keep on keeping on, as it were. In this, the fact that this band is from far off Sweden and not from somewhere in the Ozarks is neither here nor there. We’re all looking for a silver lining, no matter what our geographical location happens to be.
That’s another thing that the best in country music and American folk music in general has always done well, and lent to other genres of music; to tell human stories in all their complexity while boiling them down into the most relatable terms. The best examples of songwriting in this vein remind us that in the human experience stakes, we are not alone. This song was written with that understanding in mind, even though this goes beyond those musical traditions which inspired it.
And when it comes to the human experience, it can be understood that physical distance and even cultural variations don’t matter all that much. We’ve all got our journeys to take. The only deciding factors that mark those paths as easy roads or not are the right perspectives. And from here they can become transcendent beyond our lives, and inspire others, too. In the hands of good songwriters like these, that becomes a powerful thing indeed.
Learn more about the band by visiting the First-Aid Kit official site.
Thanks to Sony Canada for sending along a download of the album.