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The Big Black and the Blue (Deluxe Edition)

First Aid Kit

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Album Review

Suburban Stockholm's Söderberg sisters put their best foot forward on this, their first full-length outing as First Aid Kit: the album opens nearly a cappella, with a few slow strums and then a full minute of nothing but the haunting close harmonies that are the duo's strongest and most distinctive musical asset. In the 40-odd minutes that follow, the sisters' simplistic, repetitious song structures may start to grow stale, and their fine but unfussy folk instrumentalism may seem less than inspiring, but those harmonies are never far from hand, ensuring that The Big Black and the Blue is never less than an entirely pleasant listening experience. And it has potential to be much more than that — taken individually, many and even most of these tunes have ample charms to offer, among them the sweetly melodic "Waltz for Richard," the wistful "Heavy Storm," and the intriguing "I Met Up with the King" (which bears a striking resemblance to Neko Case). Taken as a whole album, though, the songs lose a lot of their distinctiveness, and the uninterrupted loveliness can start to feel oddly dreary. The Big Black certainly doesn't dash the promise suggested by the duo's Drunken Trees EP (which in its final form was only four songs and 14 minutes shorter than this album) — although that release's mild, playful experimentalism and small inklings of stylistic range are scrapped here for a more sober-minded American folk traditionalism that's perhaps commendable but not altogether compelling — but it leaves that promise yet to be completely fulfilled. It feels entirely probable that they'll get there: the Söderbergs are still (astonishingly) young — 20 and 17 at the time of this album's release — and they've shown clear evidence of their raw talent and artistry. Their level of engagement is admirable: in addition to their genuinely prodigious vocal gifts and their more than competent handling all of the varied instrumentation here, save for the drums on several tracks, the sisters are credited with co-production and mixing, and they're also responsible for album's stunning, antiquarian-styled artwork. If they want to secure their place in this young century's burgeoning classicist folk wave (see also: Laura Marling, the Tallest Man on Earth), they'll merely need to come up with some songs that can truly make good on their otherwise considerably distinguished overall package. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 2007 in Enskede, Sweden

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

First Aid Kit are a Swedish duo comprised of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose vocal harmonies and woodsy, folk-influenced songwriting take influence from the likes of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. Hailing from suburban Enskede, the siblings began composing songs as young teenagers in 2007. The home-recorded "Tangerine" enjoyed airplay on Swedish radio later that summer, and the debut EP Drunken Trees helped expand the girls' audience upon its release in April 2008. The London-based Wichita...
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The Big Black and the Blue (Deluxe Edition), First Aid Kit
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