Rough Trade Records

First Aid Kit delivered my first “Holy shit!” moment of the year. Its a rare experience to get floored when receiving an album from an unknown band. It happened with Joe Pug when I received his Nation of Heat EP in 2008 and now again with the arrival of First Aid Kits The Big Black and The Blue.

The band is made up of Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg. Klara plays guitar, Johanna is heard on keys and autoharp, and they both share songwriting and vocal duties. In the resulting body of work, youll find wise beyond their years lyrics, melancholy arrangements, and warm harmonies that spin tales of self-discovery at the expense of lost love and memories of ghosts left behind.  The album would be a remarkable feat for the most travelled and experienced musicians, but its more remarkable considering that Klara and Johanna are age 17 and 19 respectively.

This debut LP is an obsession. “Hard Believer” is the track featured here with lyrics that are both simple and poignant, building to a climax with the chorus “And its one life and its this life and its beautiful.” The following track bounces along with a more lighthearted, upbeat twist in “Sailor Song.”

There really isnt a weak point in the album. “Ghost Town” is a sparse acoustic number full of emotion. Its a song about leaving someone you love to find yourself before settling down for good, only to find that they found someone else in the meantime. Do you make one final attempt to salvage what you had? Do you walk away? Do you live on with regret? I guess these are the types of themes explored by teenagers these days. Or at least in Sweden. Or at least by these two girls.

The album was released in May and over 1 million YouTube Viewers discovered them and their Fleet Foxes cover. I may be somewhat late to the game here, but I can’t recommend the album enough. It’s a perfect album for the fall season.

First Aid Kit – Hard Believer

Video: First Aid Kit – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes Cover)

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alela diane

I had the pleasure of catching Alela Diane in Chicago recently, opening for Blitzen Trapper.‚  Oz had been talking up Alela and her debut, A Pirate’s Gospel, for quite some time but it fell on deaf ears. I’d read comparisons to Joanna Newsom (not a huge fan) and immediately stopped paying attention.

As the show drew closer I downloaded Alela Diane’s latest album, To Be Still, and was immediately overwhelmed by her voice. As it turns out, her sound is a perfect match for her appearance. I hate to use to term “hippie” because its somewhat trite, but her natural beauty and vocals lead me to imagine myself listening to this album in field of wildflowers. It’s an amazing thing to have low expectations for an album and then walk away completely blown away.

After downloading A Pirate’s Gospel only the week before, I couldn’t have been prepared for the understated brilliance that Diane delivers on To Be Still. The opening track, “Dry Grass And Shadows,” has some laid back pedal-steel that subtlety permeates the tune and is absolutely hypnotizing. Alela’s father, Tom Menig, sings harmony on “Age Old Blue” a couple songs later and the the contrast of his weathered voice against Alela’s is something special.

To Be Still has a timeless feel to it. It sounds like it could have been released 30 years ago while still sounding very relevant to today. It’s one of the best releases of the year.

MySpace | Rough Trade Records

Alela Diane – White As Diamonds

Video: Alela Diane – White As Diamonds

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The Veils – Sun Gangs [Album Review]

by Woody on March 4, 2009

sun gangs

The Veils are back with the release of their third album, Sun Gangs, on the Rough Trade label, which is anticipated to be out on April 7.‚  The Veils are the product of one Finn Andrews, son of a member of XTC, but the music has few similarities to that epic ’80s electronica band.‚  In fact, Andrews’ artistry seems to have been more influenced by the great singer-songwriters, Dylan, Waits and Leonard Cohen.‚  Graham Sutton, whose works include The British Sea Power, amongst others, produced the album.

The album has been described as desolate, romantic and anguished, all of which seem to be appropriate adjectives.‚  At first listen, and much like the predecessor album, this sounds more than a little like Nick Cave and it’s not just the occasional religious imagery in the lyrics.‚  The first track, and in my opinion the best, “Sit Down By The Fire”, is equal parts ballad and anthem and could very well offer up a modern commentary on the state of the world today. “‘Sit Down By The Fire’ is about watching something collapse, and it being quite pretty to look at,” offers Andrews.

Other keepers included the title track and “Killed By The Boom”, which bears the closest resemblance to some of Cave’s work.‚  All three of these songs offer up a rather eclectic mix and lead one to the conclusion that this is indeed an ambitious, if not terribly uplifting, record.‚  Nonetheless, I found it rather enjoyable.

Website | MySpace | Rough Trade Records

The Veils – Killed By The Boom

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