Fireworks - First Aid Kit

from the album Ruins (2018)

Listening to sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg harmonize sets my mind afire with remembrances of all the great vocal groups that came before them.  In doing so, I've become struck be the different approaches these incredible artists apply in their harmonizing craft.

I think about The Eagles, in particular the song Take It Easy. It is a straight-forward approach where each singer hits a note and those notes collectively form chords.  The beauty is that this is a four part harmony, with the forth tone adds color that takes the listener on an emotional ride.  It is very powerful and nobody does it better.

Then there are the harmonies of The Mamas & the Papas.  Here each of the four voices is like a rocket ship, soaring through the sky and leaving magnificent contrails in its wake.  Think of California Dreamin'.  There are times when teams of two singers play "call and response" with the other two - "and the sky is grey" - with great effect; but when they get to the "California Dreaming'" part, each singer is a shooting star, taking four part harmony beyond the stratosphere.

For the Söderberg sisters, it is a two part harmony.  This recalls The Everly Brothers and their pristine voices and soulful intonation. Phil and Don Everly were groundbreaking in their approach, with each of them singing a "lead" vocal line in tandem - yet their notes were at intervals apart creating perfect harmony.  If you listen to songs like When Will I Be Loved - or Take A Message To Mary - you can hear the beauty of their technique, which was emulated by bands from The Beatles to Rockpile.

First Aid Kit takes The Everly Brothers brand of harmonies and adds a fascinating interconnectedness between the voices, where one singer hears what the other is singing and adjusts their intonation to bring out the beauty in the other's voice.  When each of them is doing it, it becomes spellbinding.

The only other singer I can recall who did this was Art Garfunkel, morphing his tone around Paul Simon's vocals with incredible effect.

So, I guess I have set the bar pretty high.  No one song can really convey what I am taking about.  However, take a listen to their harmonies on the song Fireworks.  This song is a slight departure from their more americana vibe, adding a dream pop element along with a sense of classic balladry.

As you listen, listen to the vocals.  Listen to how they listen to each other and to how they adjust to each other.  It is kinetic and in the moment.  It is magical and special.  Check these sisters out.  They can really sing.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Fireworks by First Aid Lit.

Click Here to read my February 2015 blog post on First Aid Kit's cover of the Simon and Garfunkel song America.

Comments

  1. I had heard the first single off this cd is "Shame" but man am I glad you chose to write about this one—clearly the best song! Okay, so far. I realize it's only been 4 days of listening. I don't know of any other harmonizing duo who capture heartache and yearning as well as these two. And that's with all due respect to the Secret Sisters, who are amazing in their own right. Thanks for sharing, Gig!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Richie Beans. I agree with you. The Secret Sisters remind me of the mighty Everly Brothers in a way that is goosebumps good. However, First Aid Kit take it to an entirely higher level.

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