When First Aid Kit‘s Klara and Johanna Söderberg first met with producer Mike Mogis, they brought two albums as reference points: Jenny Lewis‘ Rabbit Fur Coat and Bright Eyes‘ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. These albums first inspired the Swedish sisters to seek solace in sad songs, and then delve further into the vast Americana catalog for inspiration.
So, after frequently bursting through notes with earth-shattering beauty, First Aid Kit have learned to take on a more conversational tone as they lower their voices and, at times, allow themselves to sound defeated. As a result, sophomore effort The Lion’s Roar is as comforting as their debut The Black and the Blue was impressive. So what does First Aid Kit like to listen to when they’re feeling lonely and blue? Here’s five songs that have provided comfort over their years, as told to Hive by Klara Söderberg.
1. Buffy Sainte-Marie, “Until It’s Time for You to Go”
We think this song is good for mending hearts because it’s in a lot of ways saying, “let’s live in the moment, but when it’s over it’ll be over. Don’t dwell on the past.” We first heard of Buffy Sainte-Marie through Donovan’s version of her song “Universal Soldier.” When we found out she had written this song, we started looking for more. We probably first realized we loved her when we watched her performance with Pete Seeger, singing the songs “Little Wheel Spin and Spin” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying.” It’s a very intense performance. She sings with so much conviction, she’s almost crying and at the same time she looks pissed off. [Listen here.]
2. Bob Dylan, “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”
We love Blonde on Blonde because of the poetry, the classic ’60s organ and Dylan’s voice while it was still clear and not so worn. The narrator is saying that neither he nor his lover are to blame for their failed relationship. They just did what they had to do. It’s easy to just blame the other person, but you have to come to terms with the fact that you both were responsible. [Listen here.]
3. The Carter Family, “Single Girl, Married Girl”
I’ve been reading the Carter Family biography Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. It’s changed my view on the song. Sara Carter, who sings the lead, was at the time married to her bandmate A.P. Carter, and she was not very happy in her marriage. Listening to the song now makes it way more sad than it used to be. Although this song was recorded in 1927 (!), it doesn’t feel very old. It’s very easy to picture this woman today, wishing she was still single, feeling unhappy in her marriage. [Listen here.]
4. Elliott Smith, “Let’s Get Lost”
I think it’s Elliott Smith’s vulnerable and heartfelt delivery that strikes us as honest. His life was very tough, and you can hear that. It’s hard for us not to listen to his music without crying. It hurts, but it’s also emotionally cleansing. [Listen here.]
5. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, “Melt Your Heart”
Jenny Lewis was one of the first people that inspired us in our songwriting, along with Bright Eyes. We tried to write Jenny Lewis-type songs. We failed, and it turned into our own thing instead. We saw her live in 2008, and she had an incredible stage presence — confident but not cocky. She was always smiling. For us, who had just started performing live, it was revolutionary to see someone like her so at ease on stage. “Melt Your Heart” was the first song we ever heard by her. She’s taking the term “melt your heart,” which is usually seen as positive, and implying it can be painful. It’s a sad song, but sometimes you need a sad song to get you back on your feet again. It can make you feel less lonely to know someone has felt the same as you do, or maybe even worse. [Listen here.]
The Lion’s Roar is out January 24 on Wichita Recordings. Check out the title track below.