BEST OF 2012: 12. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

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’.

FAK12

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.

New Music Roundup – First Aid Kit, Simone Felice, Andrew Bird, And The Giraffe, Eric Chenaux

It’s a gorgeous, wintery Sunday where I am and, as I gaze out of the window, I find myself drawn to the gently lulling atmospherics of And The Giraffe. A new young band from Florida, they’re currently offering a six-track mini-album via Bandcamp for as much or as little as you wish to offer them. Here’s the rather lovely ‘Welshrats‘:

And here’s a rather charming video they’ve just released for album opener, ‘Underground Love‘:

Reveal Records, the label which emerged from the late, great Derby-based shop of the same name, continue to wow and impress with their roster, having nabbed the forthcoming solo effort from Simone Felice. Fans of both The Felice Brothers and the criminally overlooked The Duke and The King should look lively. These two tracks are fine primers for what is a really rather lovely album. Tom McRae fans might also want to click below. First up, ‘New York Times‘:

And, if that’s not enough, here’s a cracking acoustic rendering of ‘Hey Bobby Ray‘, the album’s opening track:

Andrew Bird returns in March with the album ‘Break It Yourself‘ on the ever-impressive Bella Union. ‘Eyeoneye‘ has ensured that the sense of expectation continues to build. I’ve not heard the whole thing yet but this is well worth four minutes of your time:

Constellation Records have been quietly going about their business for some time now, releasing beautiful pressings of Tindersticks albums for North America (as well as last year’s fabulous Claire Denis soundtracks box set) and many fine artists besides. Eric Chenaux first came to my attention via Rich who used to run the main floor of Tempest Records in Birmingham and now trades under the name Ignite Records in the Oasis market just across the road. My infrequent visits always resulted in me buying a reasonable pile of vinyl and, like any good indie retailer, he’d gamble that if he recommended me something else, I’d add it to the pile rather than substituting it for something else. Chenaux was one such recommendation and I remain very grateful for it. The promotional gumph describes it thus:

“the recording features only his playing and singing; no guest or supporting musicians, minimal overdubs, and a rigorous structure that alternates back and forth between longform lyrical vocal-based songs and shorter, cacophonously harmonious bowed-guitar instrumentals.” 

His new album, ‘Guitar & Voice‘, is out in March and you can sample a track from it – ‘Amazing Backgrounds‘ – below:

And finally, because I’ve been banging on about it all week on the @JustPlayed twitter page, First Aid Kit‘s album ‘The Lion’s Roar’ is the first stone cold classic of 2012. There’s not a weak track on it and there are several heart in mouth melodies to improve your week. Be sure to listen to both of these, beginning with the album’s title track:

And, to finish as perfectly as I can imagine right now, here’s a live performance of album highlight ‘Emmylou‘.