Please, don’t leave this world to me

It’s been awhile, gosh! We’re sorry we’ve been MIA for a bit. Eric is in Scotland looking for his true love and seeing great shows, and I had to work some late hours last week for my day job. But, this week, all is well, Eric is gallavanting around Edinburgh or some other incredible place, drinking good beer (or not, if I know Eric), and I am getting my Scottish fix from the new Frightened Rabbit album, a review of which will come soon after I’ve let it sink in a little more.

Tonight, I come to you with an overdue review of The Big Black and the Blue by some of my very favorite kindred-spirit, painfully honest, spirited young musicians, who I feel I would really appreciate if I were ever to have a beer with them, or maybe coffee, because I’m almost positive they aren’t old enough to drink in the States. Instead, I am listening to their album in my little kitchen in Virginia, and I want you to know, Klara and Johanna, I think your music should be in every kitchen in the US! Seriously, though, let’s talk about First Aid Kit.

Klara and Johanna gave us a little hint of their storytelling, mood-setting potential with their Drunken Trees EP, and with their new album, they’re expanding on that and proving to us that no, they haven’t exhausted the possibilities, and yes, they are going to keep the moving folk tunes coming. Musically speaking, these girls have something very special. They harmonize beautifully, and they know how to make their voices work with them, filling them with character…frustration and angst come through on “I Met Up With The King” (we mean nothing to history/oh thank God), while tenderness breaks through on the following track, “Wills of the River.” You’ll find these kinds of ups and downs on the entire album as the girls explore their feelings about the nature of their own lives and humanity, either by the weaving of lovely narratives (“In the Morning,” “Josefin” or by blunt expositions of their own experiences or opinions (“Hard Believer,” “A Window Opens,” “Winter is All Over You,” to name just a very few). The acoustics are well-suited to the vocals (and vice versa!), sort of a throwback to more traditional folk songs. It’s natural, it’s folk, it’s alive, it’s genius, it speaks, you’ll love it.

There’s something else aboutThe Big Black and the Blue that I love, and it’s hard to explain exactly what it is. The ladies of First Aid Kit make me proud. They unashamedly wear their hearts on their sleeves, they’re painfully self-aware (one of my favorite qualities in a person, and especially in a musician), and they’ve got great spirit! I promise this isn’t the part where I just start talking about myself, like when you’re telling someone about a story about yourself and they interrupt to tell their story about that time that the exact same thing happened to them except it was better BUT they remind me of myself, living and exploring and asking questions, realizing they don’t know it all and looking for truth, seeing the tension in the world between the aches & pains and the moments of sheer bliss, using art to express and process. First Aid Kit gets an enormous A+ from me just for that.

Prime numbers: sexier than Daniel Radcliffe in his Harry Potter glasses?

That wasn’t actually a question.  Prime numbers are sexy, and indie music is sexy, and our Best of 2009 THUS FAR lists are sexier than Paste’s.  Also, more interesting.  Anyway, so, I read Eric’s list and decided perhaps I should make one of my own, because we do, of course have slightly different tastes, and although 4 out of my 13 picks are by artists he also picked, my song choices are different.  So, you should probably just combine our lists and make one massive playlist of wonder.

1) “Cradle” – The Joy Formidable Yes,  this song is number one on my list for a reason.  I love it with all my heart, and I watch the video over and over again wishing for her hair, and a see-saw, and my childhood back.

2) “You’re  Not Coming Home Tonight” – First Aid Kit These Swedes speak to me.  Good luck buying this EP.

3) “Because We’re Dead” – Slow Club This was a really difficult pick for me, as there are so many incredible songs on Yeah, So.  Maybe it isn’t so predictable a choice because of its pace and sparsity, but that’s exactly why I picked it. 

4) “Troll Nacht” – The Dodos You just heard this a couple days ago when they began streaming the album online…I guess there was an album leakage, so why not stream it for everyone’s enjoyment?

5) “Some Day” – We’ll Make It Right Another tough decision, another glorious album.  “We’ll Make It Bright” was a close second.  I like when they say “you better run no matter who you are”–it’s so cute!

6) “Dance Serene” – The Hard to Get I know, I know!  Eric and the producer both say “Good at That” is the best song on the EP, and yet, I can’t help saying that “Dance Serene” is the best, and not only that, it is also one of the best songs of the year, beating out all of Paste Mag’s crap.  (I don’t mean crap in a bad way, promise).  It’s catchy, French, and fits Melissa’s and Tim’s voices in a really unique and charming way.  So, “Dance  Serene” it is.

7) “Serve Them Well” – Swimming in Speakers I swear I’m not trying to argue with Eric.  Some of these artists have reached such a degree of quality that it’s really truly difficult to pick a “best” song.  Although, I am right, and “Serve Them Well” is the best.

8 ) “Songs in the Night” – Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers Samantha Crain is so wonderfully sincere and vulnerable in her music.  This is a brilliant album.  Go see them live if you can.

9) “Young Adult Friction” – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart I like their sound, and their angst, and I think this song is fabulous.  I’m only just beginning to get a grasp on life in my twenties, and they help me.  Also I will review them soon, if you want.

10) “On My Usual Catch Up with Cecilia” – Hari & Aino Okay, Eric, I agree.  Adore these guys.

p.s. I think Chris Graham should do my wedding photography

11)  “Step Off the Map and Float” – Library Voices My new obsession.  I’ll be reviewing their EP soon, I hope, even though I did sort of already rave about their myspace page.  Whatever!  p.s.  I think Chris Graham, who did these headshots, should most definitely do my wedding photography.

12) “Snow Room” – The Secret Life of Sofia Okay, I’m kind of guessing about the release date for this one, and I apologize if it’s not a 2009 song.  But these things are difficult to find sometimes.  Anyway, I love it for its ethereal qualities, and I’m waiting to see The  Secret Life of Sofia become bigger and bigger.

13) “The Trapeze Swinger” – Iron & Wine It might be cheating because it’s a compilation album, so the song was not, you know, first ever heard in 2009.  But the song is one of my favorites, with the most strangely beautiful lyrics you may ever hear, backed by Sam Beam’s classically, expectedly rapturing acoustics.

And there’s my list, love it or hate it.  (Just kidding, I know you’ll love it).

They Play Fleet Foxes Better Than Fleet Foxes

Who are they? First Aid Kit! And aren’t they cute?  Eric’s going to need a first aid kit for his heart!  (I’m so clever…)

I’ve been really slacking on my reviews lately.   I need to sit down and write some album reviews, but recently I haven’t had enough time or emotional energy for that (story of my life).  Also, my job pretty much equals staring at a computer screen all day.  I know, I know, no excuses.  I will write some bonafide album reviews ASAP.  In the meantime, I am trying desperately not to let you down.

So, for tonight, another EP I cannot purchase on iTunes because it is Swedish.  So I will see what I can do on Amazon.  But for now, check out First Aid Kit’s myspace.  They aim for the hearts, not the charts!  And that, my friends,  is the best thing a band can do.  Writing and playing good music also helps.

First Aid Kit is a lovely indie folk two-piece: sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg.  You’ll be charmed at the first acoustic lilt of “You’re  Not Coming Home Tonight,” especially as the girls’ voices blend into lovely, melancholic harmonies.  Klara and Johanna’s voices are an awesome combination of playful, rich passion, and their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” shows this off beautifully, especially at the end with “I don’t know what I have done, I’m turning myself into a demon.”  Honestly, I like the Fleet Foxes and everything, and even though they are overrated, I understand why they are–because they’re creative and wonderful, obviously–but I like First Aid Kit’s cover better than the original.  They downplay the acoustics and emphasize the vocals, which are strong and full of character.  If you haven’t already noticed, I really love when singers know how to use their voices in creative ways, almost as actors.   Maybe this comes from studying classical music for so long, but in any case, it reflects the singer’s own passion, talent, and all  in all just makes them a whole lot more interesting to listen to.  You can hear another example of this in “Jagadamba You Might”–the girls’ moody ooh’s and aah’s lead into almost-scat, and still fit the eery folk perfectly.  Finally, “Cross Oceans” is not to be forgotten, with its rhythm-based acoustics.  Despite the moodiness of their tracks, something about First Aid Kit is still uplifting.

If you don’t already love Swedish music, start here.  I know I’ll be keeping my eyes out for First Aid Kit to be more readily available in the States.  For now, here’s the Fleet Foxes cover.  Leave your comments and let us know what you think–better than the original?