First Aid Kit: The Big Black & The Blue

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First Aid Kit 

Written By:

Brad Kelly

08th February 2010
At 18:03 GMT

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For two young sisters from Sweden, First Aid Kit have made a pretty big splash in the world of alternative music.

Their woody, tender material echoes the recent interest in the growing folk scene and whilst they've most certainly got one foot firmly placed in the more accessible side of the genre, they're still surprisingly accomplished when it comes to the more sincere, more thoughtful side too.

Their 2008 début E.P Drunken Trees opened them up to a much wider audience (seeing release in both the US and UK) and now, at the very beginning of 2010, their first full-length album The Big Black & The Blue has finally been released, continuing and bolstering their steady rise of becoming a well known name within the music scene. How does it fare? Screw suspense, we'll answer now: pretty well actually. 

It's ever so gentle, never offending or growing distasteful but at the same time it's inescapably simple, working best when the songs durations stick to the short and the sweet. They work well within the realms of straightforward folk-pop and they know it, cleverly sticking to uncomplicated structures and sugary, drowsy harmonies. You'll never hear much more than an acoustic guitar and a few tambourines, put it that way.

Introduction "In The Morning" doesn't immediately fascinate but this album doesn't seem too bothered with immediate gratification, preferring to unwind slowly, taking its time rather than over-encumbering everything with tight production and sure-fire hits. "In the morning, on your journey to the sea. In the mountains, your shadows beside me" they begin in joint howl. Imagery and descriptive story-telling is definitely the young duo's forte and although we've seen better from more experienced bands, it's a pleasant and amicable attempt, successfully constructing strong introductory foundations for the rest of the L.P to build upon.

It's more the successive attempt "Hard Believer" which truly kick starts the albums fluidity though, working on stronger backing instrumentation than the opener and showcasing the pairs melodious vocals wonderfully. They work well enough when crooning on their own but they sound ten times as strong when they're entwined together, never eclipsing the other in talent or volume. Again it's simple stuff - especially the admittedly plain "love is tough, time is rough on me" chorus - but it works thanks to their youthful appeal and earnest delivery.

The focus of the album is definitely based more around the pair's vocals as opposed to any form of impressive musicianship and as previously stated, everything sticks sternly to the minimalist approach. Whilst it definitely builds a relaxed atmosphere, it does eventually become the most lacking part of the entire package. Not a single crescendo, build, break, transition, bridge or any other musical alteration ever rears its head and it eventually highlights how much the album is banking solely on the twosomes oral talents. A fickle niggle it may be but after several listens, it's something that grows into the main fault of the record.

Still, with such warm additions as the mild "Josefin", the soft and poignant "A Window Opens" and the beautifully serene album closer "Will Of The River", it's just about forgiveable. At the end of the day, the reason they've shot to fame so quickly is down to how well the pair sing together and none more so is that punctuated than on album highlight "Ghost Town". Glistening high-notes, throat-rumbling lows and a constant stream of effortless harmonisation; it sums up everything the sisters and the album are about.

The Big Black & The Blue's bare-bones backing and overall longevity may be its principal downfall but for now, the duo manage to pull of the thirty-odd minute duration on their vocals alone. For album two though, we'll be disappointed if they try the same tricks again.

Rating:  6 / 10

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