4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent - but is this the way to the future or the past?,
This review is from: The Big Black and The Blue (Audio CD)
Let's get this straight at the start. I really like this, rather a lot. It is a breathtakingly beautiful collection of songs, which are sung magnificently, Johanna and Klara Söderberg have wonderful voices and are evidently very talented, the songs are well-written, the minimalist instrumentation is fabulous and the album has crystal clear production. What's not to like? It would be churlish indeed to find much fault with this as to be honest there is little hence the high rating given by me (and everyone else so far). For this to be the product of two teenagers is remarkable. But still I worry....
Worry No.1 - Is this the future or is this the past? This is so very, very retro. It's wonderful yes but isn't this taking us a long way back? Popular music has always looked back - in a very real sense very little is truly original. There's a current fashion for looking back in two ways, first like this album does to old fashioned Americana and to the folk-inspired rock of the late 60s and 70s (that's why we have Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes and Midlake currently shifting masses of CDs) and another that harks back to the 80s (hence all the new Electronica). But should we celebrate such obvious harking back and conservatism as this in music? Shouldn't popular music forever be pushing the boundaries, be avant garde? This album is undoubtedly good and First Aid Kit are talented beyond doubt but listening to this I feel like a voyeur peering into wholesome, pre-Rebel Without a Cause middle America of the 50s. Yet the album succeeds because lyrically the songs seem somehow rooted in a much more modern sensibility. This isn't Doris Day...
Worry No. 2 - Swedish teenagers sing American Backwoods folk. There is an admirable current vogue for all things Americana in the serious corners of popular music. Artists like Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes, Okkervil River, Devendra Banhart and the like have proven that music doesn't have to bow to commercialization to sell and have stuck to their guns, wearing the 'backwoods' on their sleeves as it were. But these artists have one great advantage over European Americana exponents... they are very American. Now this is no great shakes I guess. European artists have been mimicking the output of American music even before 'Rock around the Clock' first burst out onto the airwaves back in the 50s. But it is hard to get over the idea of two teenage girls mimicking the American folk-experience. However, where it could fall down on this the album falls the right side of 'faux' and gets away with it.
With all that in mind I'd heartily recommend this to anyone. If you like Americana, Joanna Newsom etc then I have no doubt you'll like this. The real test for First Aid Kit I guess would be what the two girls do next. Do they try to repeat this or do they move on? Perhaps a criticism of the album would be that the song structures are too similar to each other. Maybe there's room for more experimentalism and unorthodox song structure in the vein of Joanna Newsom. Maybe more experimentation with the instrumentation? Anyway - great debut - 8.5/10