As I sat idly picking at a Costa muffin and ruing my choice of hot beverage one afternoon in the west country town of Frome, a tune crept through the general hubbub and myriad pronunciations of the word latte. Clearly, Shazam was called for at this point, but the various sounds contributing to this magnificent atmosphere thwarted such technological wizardry. Instead, I attempted to scribble down what words I could discern being sung by two staggeringly beautiful female voices. Unfortunately, my transcription was far from complete and thus some experimental googling was required before I alighted upon ‘Waltz For Richard’ from First Aid Kit’s debut album, ‘The Big Black & The Blue’. Said album was duly sought out and several tracks in addition to that which had a-costa-ed me that afternoon struck me as rather splendid. But it didn’t prepare me for the consistent magnificence of ‘The Lion’s Roar’.
The gorgeous early seventies American feel to Johanna and Klara Söderberg’s voices gently aches across this fine collection of songs, stirring and soothing in equal measure. The xylophone-enhanced sashay of ‘Blue’ possesses a wonderfully warm bass sound and the quality of production on ‘The Lion’s Roar’ is not to be underestimated. The resonance of a well recorded rhythm section is one of the true joys of listening to vinyl from forty odd years back and, from the very first play, I experienced the same sensation with this album.
And then there’s one of 2012’s finest narrative songs, nestled away as the second track. From the title onwards, ‘Emmylou’ is a wonderfully conceived and constructed tune, with a chorus so simple but charming that it truly never grows old. “I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June, if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too,” not only makes cunning use of country music based relationships, but also offers up a less than subtle hint as to the duo’s influences. The chorus is flat out gold and the whole song is an easy one to pick up: a guaranteed earworm without much exposure. The whole album possesses subtle but lasting melodic kinks and while I don’t doubt that it has soundtracked hundreds of polite dinner parties this year, it is a record with which to slowly, openly and happily fall in love.