First Aid Kit: The Lion’s Roar
Heaven knows why the Unofficial Music Writers’ Collective say second albums are so hard to write. For First Aid Kit, it sounded like the easiest thing the world.
The Lion’s Roar graced shelves in the UK way back in January with a cover reminiscent of any Joni Mitchell record and, more importantly, a solid set of new-Americana folk psalms that both cry out and sweep the listener through spellbinding arrangements of guitars, lap slides, pedal steels (you know its Mike Mogis producing by now, natch) and those signature, seraphic vocals.
Stand-out track Emmylou – the simple single which encapsulated love and idealism so well was the perfect contrast to the opener and eponymous The Lion’s Roar; a coming-of-age song that’s just aching to be played during a sunset scene in everyone’s dream road trip movie.
But it’s tough to pick a favourite. Blue comes close and was the perfect antidote to all the phallic ‘indie folk’ that got so over-processed with its too-many-glockenspiels this year. The song explores another’s longing and sorrow but avoids consumption. And then in rolls King of the World as the closer; a deceptively happy affair featuring their muse Conor Oberst: “I’m nobody’s baby, I’m everybody’s girl/I’m queen of everything, I’m king of the world” which could easily pass as a classic set of Bright Eyes lyrics.
Just like Conor, First Aid Kit have always tightroped the very bendy line between the emotive and the gushing; the simple and simplified – and In The Hearts of Men, they make it across unscathed.
Side B beginner To A Poet serves as the realist’s paean who’s desperately trying to lose their naivety but not their love: “Those words keep on me on my feet/When I think I might just fall apart.” The song never shouts, and yet strikes deep.
Fittingly, the roar of First Aid Kit is one that is exactly like the lion’s – its majesty comes from the sparing use of it.