first aid kit [2012]

San Francisco, CA
18 April 2012

Johanna and Klara Söderberg should speak with Swedish accents. Is what I decided. Sure, I’ve known for some time now that the Swedish sisters known as First Aid Kit sing with no discernable Swedish accent. But on this night at Slim’s, I was absolutely shocked to learn that they also speak with what sound like Southern California accents.

First Aid Kit are incredibly-talented folk musicians. Despite having been born in the 90s, they demonstrate a level of vocal and instrumental skill of which most pop “artists” could only dream. Their harmonies are so pure and true that they cannot be ignored. As in, a sold-out Slim’s crowd could not keep their eyes or ears trained on anything else in the room for the entirety of the show. It was a degree of respect both surprising and well-deserved.

The sisters are confident but still somewhat shy. Having recorded and performed since 2007, they clearly have grown comfortable with the stage. Though I was (unfairly, admittedly) disappointed by their SoCal accents, I heartily enjoyed their sweet dynamic, complemented perfectly by their goofy and lovable drummer, Matthias. At one point, while Klara requested time to tune her guitar, Matthias (in a wonderfully-thick Swedish accent!) stumbled into a delightfully-meandering anecdote about how all Swedish musicians are taught from a young age how to tell meandering anecdotes to stall for time when fellow musicians are tuning their instruments. Swedish meta humor at its best.

So you have Matthias on drums, Klara on guitar and sister Johanna on keyboards. It is simple and, thanks in large part to the sisters’ harmonies, it is divine. Sure, I had figured before the show began, that they could achieve such combined clarity on recordings, but the live recreation would fall short. Nothing of the sort. Their voices melded beautifully together, almost implausibly well, it seemed, considering the live setting.

The highlights were many: “In the Hearts of Men” and “Emmylou” were both fantastic. But it was “Ghost Town” that brought the audience to a near rapturous state. In an apparently Swedish manner (as fellow Swede, Loney Dear does the very same thing live), the sisters stepped away from their microphones and asked for total silence. And, of course, they received it. They proceeded to project forth a truly gorgeous rendition of “Ghost Town”. Absolutely blew me away, and that was before what seemed like a third of the audience joined in on the chorus. In tune, no less.

Listen to this band. See them live. Enjoy.