Club Uncut: Richard Swift, First Aid Kit, The Leisure Society – February 24, 2009

Swedish duo First Aid Kit stand onstage - sleeves pulled over hands, hands behind their backs - like two awkward schoolgirls at a music recital.

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Swedish duo First Aid Kit stand onstage – sleeves pulled over hands, hands behind their backs – like two awkward schoolgirls at a music recital.

Still in their teens, elfin sisters Johana and Klara Soderberg’s harmonies, however, soon instil a self-confidence in the pair that belies their years. More anguished than angelic, First Aid Kit never stray tonight into the plinky plink tweeness that occasionally plagues their antecedents (Devendra Banhart and Vashti Bunyan being the most obvious reference points). While bruised and unashamedly lovelorn, Johana Soderberg is more than capable of barking like a fishwife when the mood takes her.

Accompanying themselves on little more than an acoustic guitar and a change-from-a-fiver keyboard, it’s clear in anti-folk terms the pair have taken the wide-eyed romanticism of Regina Spektor over the clever-clever cutesiness of Kimya Dawson, adding their own enchanting Scandinavian twist to proceedings. By the time Klara sings “ the seals are singing” on “Jagadamba, You Might”, you can almost smell the pickled herring.

Bewitching like a Norse fairy tale, only a rudimentary cover of Bob Dylan‘s “It Aint Me Babe” feels surplus to requirements. Far more effective is a skeletal, virtually a cappella rendition of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” – a minor Youtube sensation last year that serves to underline the sheer strength of writing behind the baroque sonic tapestry being performed down the road tonight at the Roundhouse by Fleet Foxes themselves.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the day Club Uncut falls on Shrove Tuesday, Leisure Society frontman Nick Hemming chooses to open with a song called “Pancake Day”. Dressed in a pinstripe suit and polished brogues, and with a foppish fringe gently bobbing in time to the music, Hemming trades in gentle, wistful acoustic pop: lines like “I’m not an evil man, on pancake day I leant you my frying pan,” coming across like a less wry Belle & Sebastian.

Although tonight missing a string section, Hemming occasionally picks up a ukulele and a banjo to augment his songs, with flautist Helen Whitaker adding gentle flourishes of pastoral flute to the singer’s tales of love and longing.

While not a particularly memorable set, Leisure Society have a delicate, warm and comfortingly nostalgic quality to them – like re-watching old Oliver Postgate animations. “Love’s Enormous Wings” is all breezily brushed snare and twinkling Fender Rhodes; “We Were Wasted” half-inches a plucked arpeggio from Nick Drake’s “River Man”; while debut single “Last Of The Melting Snow” lovingly moulds “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” into a peculiarly English kiss-off.

Soft? Maybe. Enjoyable? Undoubtedly.


For the Richard Swift review, please go here.


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