Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘First Aid Kit’ Category

[ATTENDED: September 8, 2018] First Aid Kit

Seven month ago Sarah and I saw First Aid Kit (sold out) at Union Transfer.  Now here they were back in Philly seven months later playing at the larger Fillmore.

We both enjoyed that earlier show a lot (obviously).  I wasn’t sure if it was smart seeing the band again on the same tour (as with Sloan, there was a lot of duplication).  But there was something quite different about this show compared to the first one.

The (very beautiful) poster was different and this leg of the tour was called the Rebel Hearts Tour (whereas the first one was called the Ruins tour).  So what this meant was that they were still playing mostly songs from their new album Ruins, although not all of them, and, indeed, not the title song.  But they’d added a new song (woohoo!) and one from Ruins that they didn’t play last time.

In a nutshell, it felt like a very different show even though it was more or less the same show. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: September 8, 2018] Julia Jacklin

I had heard about Julia Jacklin from NPR, so I was intrigued to see her live.  Jacklin is Australian, but you can’t really tell from her singing voice (or her speaking voice, really).  Although the way she enunciates “buh sket ball” makes her sound conspicuously non-American.  I had heard a song called “Don’t Let the Kids Win” which contains that basketball.  The title is amusing and I knew she was lyrically dense, so Iassumed there’d be amusing lines throughout the show.  But indeed, no.

Jacklin is not a partier, but nor is she a downer either.  She is thoughtful and inquisitive.  Her music, even live, is fairly spare–except when it’s not–and she sings pretty quietly–except when she doesn’t.

She was charming and funny–delightful in an opening act.  She played a quick six songs and that was that.

“Lead Light” has a kind of old school swing to it, almost 50s rock and roll.  I enjoyed the way the song built and stopped several times.

Her band, three Canadian guys, Harry (lead guitar) Eddie (bass) and Ian (drums) kept perfect accompaniment and backing vocals. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: February 10, 2018] First Aid Kit

I first heard First Aid Kit from a Tiny Desk Concert back in 2012. I was immediately transported by their harmonies. And by the fact that the office looks dark and like they are the only ones in it (Bob, if you read this, if anyone deserves a second Tiny Desk it’s these two–maybe one with lights on!)

I also knew that Sarah would love them, which she did when I put “Emmylou” and “The Lion’s Roar” on a disc for her.  Then we bought the album and she’s become a bigger fan than me.

They played XPN Fest in 2015, but our first year at the Fest was 2016, so we didn’t have an opportunity to see them live until now.  Understandably, this show sold out pretty quickly, but I was quick on the draw and got my tickets right away.

When we got to Union Transfer there was a long line to get in (that ever happens!) And then there was a long (very orderly) line to get merch.  We knew we had to get one of the gorgeous posters which were of somewhat limited supply–although I saw at the end of the show that  they still had some, so I guess poor Sarah didn’t have to carry it all night long.

We were still pretty early and got a good location. The first wonderful thing about the crowd was that they were all short–except for one guy who was literally a foot taller than everyone else (he was very nice and a future librarian and was not in our way).  And unlike some of the more intense shows I’ve been to, nobody pushed his way up front at the last minute.  The crowd was courteous and polite (and even though it was sold out it didn’t feel cramped (maybe half the people had the flu)). (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: February 10, 2018] Van William

One of the more enjoyable experiences at a concert is watching an opening act win over an audience.

I don’t know how many people knew Van William before the show.  I didn’t, although I looked him up and really enjoyed the song “Revolution.”  A person behind me said, wait Van William is his name?  So I’m guessing he wasn’t that well known.

Turns out that he goes by Van Pierszalowski (Van William is much easier, even if that singular tense is maddening) and is in the band Waters [who I have sience listened to and really really like] and was the frontman of the band Port O’Brien [who I also rally enjoyed–such songwriting chops on this guy].

He started the show on acoustic guitar, playing a very catchy song called “The Country.”  I loved that the song started slow and then kicked in for the second verse.  And when he gets to that chorus which is basically a big “whooooooa” its hard to resist.  I enjoyed his delivery and the whole song of his folk rock.  It was warmly received.

He told us that he was happy to be here with his best friends First Aid Kit.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-The Lion’s Roar (2012).

This album was my first exposure to First Aid Kit and I immediately loved the harmonies and the dark but positive-sounding vocals.

I’m probably one of ten people on earth who doesn’t love Bright Eyes, but I love the production by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis (with contributions from Bright Eyes’ Nate Walcott and band leader Conor Oberst–maybe I need to re-listen to Bright Eyes).

The first song I’d heard was the opening cut “The Lion’s Roar.”  The song starts with a minor key guitar chord progression and “electronic flute.”  It’s atmospheric and a bit spooky-sounding, but when they come in with the chorus “And I’m a goddamn coward, but then again so are you” in wonderful harmony that is at times right on and other times kind of dissonant, it’s goose-bump-inducing.  Oh wow. what a moment

Pitchfork describes that electronic flute as “one deeply eerie flute tone that lingers throughout, floating in and out of scenes like a sly specter” and that’s pretty accurate.

It’s followed by “Emmylou” the most gorgeous country song I’ve ever heard, complete with pedal steel guitar and a wonderfully evocative chorus: “I’ll be your Emmylou, and I’ll be your June/ If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny, too,” (do watch them sing it to Emmylou Harris at an award ceremony and watch her brought to tears).

“In The Hearts Of Men” slows things down with some wonderful moments as the sisters sing the “la la las” throughout the chorus.  Once again, there’s surprisingly dark lyrics for two women around 23 and 21.  And speaking of dark lyrics, the pretty xylophone and guitar play a chirpy melody in “Blue” which has this stark and dark verse:

And the only man you ever loved / You thought was gonna marry you / Died in a car accident when he was only 22 / Then you just decided, love wasn’t for you / And every year since then / Has proved it to be true

Damn.  How does a song with that lyrics have a beautiful soaring chorus that is so uplifting and Abba-esque and yet again lyrically:

But you’re just a shell of / Your former you / That stranger in the mirror / Oh, that’s you / Why’d you look so blue?

“This Old Routine” features more of that uncanny, how are you only 21 years old lyrics sung with such beautiful harmony (and delicate mandolin sprinkled in):

This old routine will drive you mad
It’s just a mumble never spoken out loud
And sometimes you don’t even know why you loved her.
Well you look at her now, and you see why.

The second half of the song has strings and such, playing a simple five note melody.  There’s a moment near the end where the strings play that five note riff and its followed by the mandolin playing the same melody one step up and it’s just gorgeous.

“To a Poet” has a fast tight guitar melody.  As the song builds, a harmonium is added.  The chorus goes in a high register until the simple catchy end line: “There’s nothing more to it / I just get through it.”  The poet in question is Frank O’Hara

But Frank put it best when he said
“You can’t plan on the heart”
Those words keep me on my feet
When I think I might just fall apart

The string section ending is bit of a surprise since neither one of them palsy on it but it does add some nice texture to this song that has just grown from a tiny guitar to full orchestration over the course of 6 minutes.

That cool flute sound returns on “I Found a Way,” as it runs through the falsetto-filled chorus.  “Dance To Another Tune” slows things down for a while until the middle features another string section.  This time the sisters add their “bah bah bahs” to it and it sound terrific.

“New Year’s Eve” brings back the autoharp (you can really hear the plectrum zipping along the strings–something I’ve never noticed when others play it).  It’s a suitably quiet song with a gentle harmony on the final line of the chorus: “that’s what’s going to save me.”  And I love that no other instrumentation is added.

The end of the record is quite different from anything else.  “King of the World’ is a dynamic romp, easily their fastest, loudest, stompingest song.  It’s got a full band behind them and a vocal turn from Conor Oberst.  There’s all kinds of strings and mandolin tucked in the corners that peek out here and there.  There’s even horns which sound a bit like Calexico.

This album is just fantastic.  And their harmonies get better and more confident with each album.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Writing Teacher”

I have not really enjoyed any of the stories I’ve read by Wideman.  This was the first one that I felt was on the right path to my enjoyment.  And then it kind of drifted away from me at the end.

It also features one of the things I hate most in stories–more on that in a moment.

This is the story of a writing teacher.  He is reading and reviewing a story by a student, Teresa McConnell who, “wants to help other people.”  The story “wishes to save the life of its main character, a young woman of color, a few years out of high school, single, child to support, no money, shitty job, living with her mother who never misses an I-told-you-so chance to criticize her daughter’s choices.”

What I hate most in stories comes a few sentences later: (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-The Big Black and the Blue (2010).

Following their debut EP, Johanna and Klara Söderberg recorded a full length album, this one also produced by their dad.

This album feels a little bigger, a little fuller, overall. I’m sure the drums help, but also the guitar feels enveloping.  The biggest development is how terrific the sisters’s voices sound together.  They have really gotten their harmonies (including falsetto) totally in sync.

“In the Morning” has nearly one minute of gorgeous a capella harmony until a simple but interesting guitar motif comes in–and the powerful harmonies continue.  “Hard Believer” is acoustic guitar and Klara’s solo voice until the chorus when Johanna’s harmony adds heft to the song.  More instruments follow as well–mandolin shows up here and there.

“Sailor Song” opens with an autoharp, normally a jokey kind of instrument, but it works very well with their voices.  When the song launches into a 1-2 stomp, a nod to some of their country love, it really takes off.  “Waltz for Richard” is, indeed, a waltz with knock-out harmonies in the chorus.

“Heavy Storm” has some great music–a slight departure form the standard strum, and it’s quite engaging with their voices.  “Shot Down” opens with a harmonium (or accordion). It turns into a pretty, slow piece with spare piano.  It mind-boggling to think that these two songwriters were just 19 and 17 when they were writing lyrics like

And I remember how you told me
All that you wanted to do
The dream of Paris in the morning
Or a New York window view
And I can see it now you’re married
And your wife is with a child
And you’re all laughing in the garden
And I’m lost somewhere in your mind

“Josefin” is a pretty song with layered harmonies over a simple one-two bass rhythm.   “A Window Opens” has a great waltz rhythm and a cool guitar melody.  And “Winter Is All Over You” has s lovely spare guitar melody with Klara’s voice soaring over it.  (I love the aaaaahh section, it is really gorgeous).  “I Met Up With A King” is one of my favorite songs on the disc.  The delicate flute and their close harmonies are just beautiful in this spritely song.  I also love the way they sing “Thank Gawwwwwwd” in an almost aggressive style with the rough note that they hold a lot longer than expected.

The disc ends with a delicate pastoral “Wild of the River” a delightful folk song.

While it’s true that each successful album gets bigger and better, this is a wonderful debut full length, especially if you like their folkier style.

[READ: January 9, 2018] “Foreign-Returned”

Hassan works in Connecticut.  He and his wife had moved from Pakistan when he had gotten a job in Manhattan.  But he was let go and before his Visa coul run out, he quickly got a new job in Stamford.  It was quite a come down.  And despite the huge savings in rent, the place they lived was nothing compared to Manhattan.

He had been in Stamford for eight weeks, with his own desk and everything, when a young woman, early 20s, was introduced at his workstation.  She would be sharing space with him.  Her name was Hina and she was also Pakistani.

She had computer manuals, a velvet-covered Quran and wore a scarf.  He found her rather annoying. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Drunken Trees EP (2008).

First Aid Kit is a band made of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg.  When they released this debut EP, Johanna was 18 and Klara was 15.  It was produced by their dad and made a big splash in Sweden.  When they uploaded a video of their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” (included on the reissue of this disc) Fleet Foxes linked to it and raved about it and that brought them more attention.

This album feels homemade in the best way.  It feels quiet and cozy–like a family sitting around a fireplace playing guitar and autoharp (their dad was in a band as well, and he plays on the album too).

“Little Moon” opens with a lengthy spoken section (over a pretty melody).  The sisters start singing in harmony after a minute and the song is cute (the ra ra ra ra section is a little jarring).  “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” has a surprisingly grown up sentiment:
Yeah you cooked his dinners
You raised his children
Still he’s not satisfied
He says “I’d rather switch with you
You don’t know how hard it is
To work from 9 to 5”

But the heroine of the story leaves the man and sets off on a new life.  “Tangerine” is a bit less empowering–and it sure seems like there was some kind of domestic trouble at home (although there doesn’t seem to have been): “I’m not going to beg just say please, please, please / Be good to me.”

“Jagadamba, You Might” this is a darker, slower song, and like the first song they sing “Jagadamba” as a kind of syllabic sound which is strangely jarring.

“Our Own Pretty Ways” is the fullest sounding song with a flute and a prominent two-step.  “Pervigilo” features an organ and runs over 5 minutes.  It’s a pretty song and while never striking, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.  “Cross Oceans” has a loud (for them) bass and drum rumble.  It hints at a direction they would explore more but ultimately deviate from.

The addition of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” is a treat as their harmonies are really striking in the chorus–the way they know when to harmonize and when to keep the harmonies a bit more distant.  It’s really striking.

The album is a strong beginning.  They are certainly still finding their way, but it’s a pretty and fun recording.

[READ: January 8, 2018] “Whoever Is There Come on Through”

My brief exposure to Colin Barrett suggests that he writes about Ireland and drugs.  This story is about Ireland and drugs.

Eileen is waiting for her friend Murt at the bus depot.  He has just gotten out of rehab.  The first thing he asked was who won the U.S. election.  “Whoa,” he said flatly.

They have been friends–very close, but never more than friends–for a dozen years. When they were sixteen, he confessed to having a crush on her, but she said they should just be friends.  A few weeks later he we into the hospital for the first time.  She naturally blamed herself, but he assured her that she was just one of a bunch of causes.

When he arrived at her car he asked her to take him to his Uncle Nugent’s.  He talked a bit about his current state and then asked to go to McDonald’s.  He ordered two Happy Meals and then wondered if they ever ask adults who order Happy Meals if there is a child with them.  Murt says he is tired, which automatically raises red flags for Eileen, but she didn’t want to be too pushy with him. (more…)

Read Full Post »

2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Tiny Desk Concert #204 (March 28, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

firstThis Tiny Desk Concert is what first introduced me to First Aid Kit.  It was “The Lion’s Roar” that really sold me on this exotic duo with the beautiful harmonies (they are sisters from Sweden–that’s Johanna Söderberg with the lighter hair and Klara Söderberg with darker hair singing lead).

For the first song, “New Year’s Eve,” Johanna plays the autoharp as Klara sings lead.  They both do the lovely harmony chorus.

For “The Lion’s Roar” Klara plays guitar.  And while she sings a lovely lead, it’s Johanna’s haunting low harmonies that really make the song amazing.  The album version has keys but they are not missed in this beautiful rendition.

I also fell in love with “Emmylou,” a song about Emmylou Harris Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash and June Carter.  Klara’s lead is beautiful, but when both sisters sing lead in the second verse it’s stunning.

I have listened to the audio of this many times but haven’t actually watched it for a while.  This looks like it was filmed after hours at the NPR offices.  It is very dark with just one light shining on them.  It’s a shame as it would be fun to see them a little better.  But it also gives the whole recording a kind of subversive feel.

What a great introduction to a great band.

[READ: December 5, 2016] “Pet”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived (a few days late for advent, but that was my fault for ordering so late) I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This is the first story I read in this calendar (I received it on the 5th).  I wasn’t sure if the stories would be thematic or if they would avoid dark subjects (it being advent after all), or if they would just be a box of good stories.

I was pleased that the first story was by Unferth, whom I really like.

This story is told in a very interesting way–a strange sense of removal that comes with the first line: “Somehow they have wound up with these two turtles.”

The “they” are a mother and her teenaged son.  The mother rescued these turtles from her sister.  She was house sitting and saw the turtles down there–pathetic, one rock between them in a dark basement.  And she felt compelled to take them home.  Her sister is all too happy to get rid of them.

Her son is dismissive.  Of the turtles and of her in general.

And the story telling also seems to be dismissive of her, in a way.  The story is not told from her point of view and yet it seems to take on her voice for this paragraph, but it seems to slowly morph into her son’s:

Besides, the turtles aren’t much work.  She has to feed them and check their water temperature and turn the light on and off.  She has to clean the tank each week.  She has to take the tank’s water out, cup by cup, pour it into a bowl, then carry the bowl to the tub, walk through two rooms to do it (drops of dirty water falling on he floor).  She has to empty bowl after bowl….

One of the turtles is sick and she takes it to the vet.   But the vet only deals with mammals and has no advice (and charges her $40).  Then she is stuck carrying the turtle with her everywhere else that day–even to her AA meeting, where they all insist she leave with the smelly thing.

She gets some medical advice from a friend and the turtle gets better.  But then it starts fighting with the smaller turtle.

Her son tells her to just leave them in the road and let them get run over.

The story seems to loom as a story of helplessness, but then she sees a ray of hope.  A man from her AA meetings asks her to dinner.  Her son, of course, is dismissive of him as well.  But he is willing to come over and help with the turtles.

And I love that he gives her an answer she was completely unaware of.

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: July 25, 2015] St. Vincent

2015-07-25 20.41.29I’ve enjoyed all the St. Vincent records–each one more than the previous one.  This past year Bob and Robin from NPR both claimed that the St. Vincent live show was the best that they saw that year.  Since then, I have been hell bent on seeing her (she played NY right after they raved about her but it was sold out).  She has been touring Europe for a while now so I never expected to see her anytime soon.

And then it was announced: St. Vincent AND My Morning Jacket, another band that I’ve been dying to see, would headline this years XPNFEST.  As with last year’s fest, we considered going to the all day show–again, $45 for a 3 day pass (and when I found out that kids can get a day pass for $5–jeez!).  So maybe next year if we don’t like the headliners, we’ll go for the day (I wouldn’t keep the kids up till midnight watching headliners).  But as we saw this year, the venue is shaded, there’s lots to see and lots of free stuff (which the kids love) they even have a Kids Corner section, so next year, if there’s some good bands like this year (Calexico, First Aid Kid, Fly Golden Eagle), it would totally be a fun day out.

But never mind that, we were there for St. Vincent. (more…)

Read Full Post »

decwalrusSOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT Live at Newport Folk Festival July 28, 2012 (2012).

jacobs-folkfest-44I discovered First Aid Kit through NPR and I liked the two or three songs so much I bought their album, The Lion’s Roar.  And here’s a full set at Newport Folk Festival.

There’s three members of First Aid Kit, two sisters and a boy drummer all from Sweden.  I don’t know if coming from Sweden has any impact on their singing, but their voices are extraordinary  especially when they harmonize.  “Blue” is one of their great songs and it sounds amazing live.

They also do a stunning cover of Joan Baez’ “Diamonds & Rust,” and on their final track, “King of the World,” Conor Oberst gives a guest vocal (he’s on the album too).

Lyrically, the band is interesting too.  I love the premise of “Emmylou” and the phrasings in “The Lion’s Roar.”  In this show, they dedicate “Hard Believer” to Richard Dawkins, so the band are definitely not lightweights.

It’s a great set and a wonderful introduction to this compelling Swedish band.  I hope they get some more airplay in the States.  You can check it out here.

[READ: December 10, 2012] “Flesh and Numbers”

Stephen Marche publishes a lot of stories in The Walrus, and I find that I’m hit or miss about him.  And, indeed, I was even hit or miss about this story.  I feel that Marche is often trying to go for shock in his stories–and this one has two kinds of shock in it.

The first is that a husband pays his wife for a blow job.  (A bright red Canadian $50).  And later he starts paying her a $50 every time they have sex.  This all begins because she wants to buy a pair of boots that she deems too expensive.  The story kind of looks at the idea of prostitution and power roles in marriage, but only glancingly.

The story talks about their financial situation (they are both successful, although there is a marked discrepancy in who makes how much and how they divide up the bills).  But once this casual money-for-sex situation arises, she finds that she is enjoying the feeling of getting the money.  Indeed, since he always pays with a red 50, she stars getting mildly turned on whenever she sees them in her daily life.  They both find that they are having sex more and doing more interesting things in bed.  In fact, hen the new iPad comes out she offers anal sex as an option for more cash. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »