Conor sings this beautiful song with First Aid Kit. And, yes, “Upside Down Mountain” is the topic for my next article. So in love with this album! ♥
Conor sings this beautiful song with First Aid Kit. And, yes, “Upside Down Mountain” is the topic for my next article. So in love with this album! ♥
“Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together,” I sing to myself while I walk the wet streets of my hometown, Rosario, Argentina. Apparently, it has been raining for a week, but I wouldn’t know since I’ve only arrived from Europe last night.
The song proceeds and while my umbrella twists and bends to the sound of the wind, the First Aid Kit cover of America is all I can hear. Their flawless harmonies sound deeper and more perfect than ever. Not even the rain or the car horns can change my First Aid Kit-state of mind; I’m in my musical zone.
A guy rushing in my direction almost slams his umbrella in my face and all I do is smile; so does he after apologizing regretfully for his clumsiness. Now I walk with the feeling that love is in the air… I sigh while the sound of Klara’s guitar moves swiftly to the following verse.
“‘Kathy’, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, Michigan seems like a dream to me now.” When I listen to this verse, I cannot help but think that Stockholm seems like a dream to me now, but a week ago it was real. I was there, walking the enchanting streets of a city that I can only describe as contradictorily vivid and nostalgic.
For a moment, I forget that I’m walking to work and I’m back in Stockholm. I can see myself packing my backpack and leaving the hostel early in the morning to go to the festival venue where my favorite band, First Aid Kit, would be playing later that night among other bands. It was a cold summer day in August (bear in mind that my idea of summer involves 40 degrees and not 15) and I had been waiting for that moment for nearly three months.
Since I had arrived to the venue very early in the morning and the doors would only open after noon, I decided to sit around and enjoy the Haruki Murakami book I was reading, while listening to First Aid Kit—a combination which I had discovered worked pretty well. By the time the doors of the venue were open, not only had I read three chapters of my book but I had also talked to nearly half of the Swedish population, asking each and every person I’d meet if they were a First Aid Kit fan and if they knew the band. Whenever someone would ask me why I liked FAK so much as to come all the way from Argentina to see them, I’d say “Imagine reading your favorite poetry book but with music. Can it get any better than that?” The responses varied but most of them involved an awkward stare and I’m pretty sure even the ones that did smile thought I was completely insane. Luckily, one of the people I met was actually First Aid Kit’s biggest fan ever so I stuck to her for the rest of the day. This girl told me she had met the band a couple of times already and, therefore, she could help me meet them. Now I was even more nervous with a chance of panicking any time soon, but the dream was getting even bigger than I had expected and I was ready for the challenge.
While drinking some tea (not beer, yeah, I’m very responsible, apparently) and discussing with my new acquaintance why I think that Johanna’s verses are sometimes more difficult to sing than Klara’s—because leading the melody tends to be easier than singing the accompaniment—a tall, flawless blonde girl who looked very much like Johanna Söderberg walked past us as if she were walking along a runaway in slow motion. It was her indeed; my reaction was pretty simple: I panicked. The band was already in the venue. It was all happening.
I was more than satisfied with just seeing one of the siblings pass by, but my new pal was not going to give up so easily. After a few more hours of discussing favorite songs, albums, more songs and albums again, I noticed a girl who looked very much like Klara Söderberg rushing past us as swiftly as a shooting star. It was her, without any doubt. My new best friend ran after her and while she greeted Klara, I, on the other hand, was trying to move my backpack which suddenly had gotten much heavier. When I finally made my way to where they were standing, I introduced myself to Klara and smiled repeatedly without finding any words to say. I wasn’t able to thank her for writing the soundtrack to my life with songs like To a Poet, Fleeting One or Tangerine—like I had practiced in front of the mirror and even with my colleagues at work—because I froze completely. However, I did manage to smile in a non-creepy way, I think. Take a look for yourself…
Okay, maybe I do look 70% freaked-out and 30% normal but still OMG!
As if that wasn’t enough, after a few more hours of talking and also listening to the other bands that were also playing that day, Johanna walked past us again and this time I managed to look almost normal. Just as before, I wasn’t able to tell her how amazing I think her voice is and how she owns the concert once she starts to sing and play the keyboard, but still I look pretty happy in the picture and that is all that matters.
Well, maybe I do look like a complete mess but anyway…
“‘Kathy, I’m lost’, I said, though I knew she was sleeping,” the song emerges one more time begging me to come back to reality and I have the feeling that their voices have grown at the same pace as the song has and I’m dragged into the concert again: The lights, the band, the string quartet and, of course, the music…I can remember Klara smiling at us, and Johanna waving at the end of Emmylou and the whole crowd responding to these gestures with exhilaration, hoping to become part of their memory that night…
As I reach my office and say hello to the guard with a smile on my face—which he doesn’t seem to understand because it doesn’t match the awful weather—I think of all the fears and doubts I had before going on this musical quest and how small they seem now after everything I experienced that day. I didn’t need to compete for Klara’s smile or Johanna’s waving, they had become a part of my history that day and that was more than enough for me. When I left the venue to catch a plane as soon as the concert was over, all I could think on my way to the airport was “I made it.” And you know what? I’m pretty sure First Aid Kit thought the same, since 10.000 people came to listen to them that night, while only 6 years ago, they had played in the same festival but in a smaller stage and with a much smaller audience. In that moment, maybe singing in the bigger stage felt like a distant dream to them, but now it feels like the sky is their only limit.
In a way, we were all part of history that night. They became a part of mine, and I like to think I became a part of theirs…The song ends, but luckily there’s always the next one to look forward to.
By Annie, September 5th 2014
Images by annieandlilian, Linnea Gröning and Frida Birgersson
First Aid Kit - Popaganda Festival 2014 - Stockholm, Sweden (30/08/2014) a.k.a. best night ever.
Photo credit to Linnea Gröning and Frida Birgersson.
In 1966, Simon & Garfunkel released a song called The Dangling Conversation, which later that year would be included in their highly successful album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. In this song, they depicted a fading love story and the agony of two lovers who knew the end was getting closer. One of my favorite lines in this song is “And you read your Emily Dickinson and I my Robert Frost,” which describes how far away they were from each other. Almost 48 years later, First Aid Kit has just released their third album titled “Stay Gold”, inspired by Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe it was through this Simon & Garfunkel song that they first heard of Robert Frost, and later on came across this poem. Plus, I love the fact that they used a poem as inspiration because it shows that intertextuality is an important part of their music and their lives, just as it was for Simon & Garfunkel and many timeless poets and musicians. It is indeed through fiction that stories become real…
“Stay Gold” is made up of ten beautiful songs that are connected to one another in so many levels, and I believe this shows these two young women have developed more character and self-awareness. The main theme of this new album is the inevitableness in life. And though this is something that Johanna and Klara have explored before, the level of honesty and depth shown in this record can’t be compared to anything they have previously written. Besides, behind this feeling of unavoidability always lies a sense of hope. Their name is First Aid Kit after all, so despite the fact that at times they flirt with life’s ambivalences, the Söderberg sisters are indeed two helpless optimists coming to rescue you.
While their search for hope in the midst of deception is clearly shown in My Silver Lining, it is in the song Stay Gold that we see more in detail how they use their own collection of thoughts and fears to process how ambivalent life can be at times. How can we enjoy something that we know it’s going to end? And why was the album titled “Stay Gold” if nothing really does? Well, actually, I believe this to be the most interesting point of the record, because it is one of the main challenges we must face in life: How to cope with loss and disappointment and still remain positive and hopeful. “So dawn goes down today, nothing gold can stay,” reads the poem by Frost, and their lyrics reflect upon this part too coming to the conclusion that, even if it all goes wrong in the end, it is always worth taking the risk and hoping for the best. So staying gold it is, folks!
It is not a coincidence that Cedar Lane comes after Stay Gold, because their fear of things not working out is actually confirmed in this story. Cedar Lane is a stream of thoughts portraying a past relationship that was destined for misfortune. This is the To a Poet of the album, and I even dare to say it involves the same two people. Cedar Lane picks up the idea of only finding peace and comfort in the past. The way in which this love story is described –the clear images of happiness when they are together and that feeling of nothingness when they are apart– is overwhelmingly moving. Now that it’s all over, this young woman is left to face everything that she can neither control nor let go. That is why she needs to convince herself that “Something good will come out of this,” because that is the only thing she can hold on to. Bottom line, this song should never not be on repeat.
The album also has songs which are faster-paced –but not any less philosophical– like Waitress Song and Heaven Knows. However, it was Fleeting One that really caught my attention due to its flute arrangements and its lyrics. This song is beautifully heartbreaking and this is something that I love about the band: The fact that it is impossible not to perceive sorrow and nostalgia as something beautiful, partly because of their stunning melodies, but also thanks to their sharp phrasing and honest lyrics. “Our love is a setting sun,” they sing agonizingly and again this love story was never meant to work out, mainly because the lead character doesn’t know who she is, and therefore she can’t convey any sense of permanence. Plus, this parallelism between love and life being fleeting and a setting sun is simply brilliant and works so well for this story, in which it feels like the end was almost as comforting as the beginning.
A Long Time Ago is definitely the ballad of the record and it is completely different from everything we have heard before: A full orchestra with Klara leading the melody and Johanna singing the backup vocals creating this unique dissonant sound that only they know how to handle so brilliantly. “Wow” is not a good enough interjection for this song. If there is something that we learn from this story is that one-sided love never lasts. And similar to Waltz for Richard, what is hurting this girl the most is that she wasn’t enough. “I come bearing forgiveness and only love, only love, even if it’s not enough…” The fact that she’s able to look back on the relationship in a longing but rational way shows a level of self-awareness only achievable through thorough thinking and acceptance: Life is as much about winning as it is about losing.
“(…) we are verses out of rhythm, couplets out of rhyme in syncopated time. And the dangling conversation and the superficial sighs are the borders of our lives,” sing Simon & Garfunkel in The Dangling Conversation, and I believe this is exactly what First Aid Kit is trying to avoid in their relationship with art and music. They don’t want to go unnoticed, but they are not willing to sacrifice who they are and what they think to please others; superficiality will never be on the table. Their message is loud and clear and, altogether, “Stay Gold” is an invitation to explore the journey of two young women as they trace their own paths. Their stories are a manual guide on how to cope with life’s ambivalences –“I’m in love and I’m lost,” they sing in Shattered & Hollow– and how to face what’s inevitable without becoming cynic or bitter –“I try to keep on keeping on,” they say in My Silver Lining. But most importantly, the message is not to dwell on fears and resignation. Even if you have yearning soul, you must never give up chasing the sun.
With minds so bold and thoughts so clear, Johanna and Klara have become the ambassadors of modern folk music and my personal and emotional first aid kit. And I’m sure many years from now, I will be able to tell my kids that I witnessed how they changed the face of music and my generation, just like my father did when he would tell me all about Simon & Garfunkel. Surely no gold can stay, but this album should definitely become the exception.
Thanks for the read!
Note: In case you want to read my crazy but awesome analogy between First Aid Kit and Chomsky’s Transformational Grammar, you are more than welcome to do it here. xx
Only 4 days!! Cannot wait.
I have to confess I knew right from the start that this band and I would get along very well, mainly because the name London Grammar itself combined a) my favorite city in the whole world, which is London, duh, and b) my profession, which is to study the English language and therefore its grammar. So it was meant to be…<3
Like I said, my job involves studying the English grammar, so the first thing that caught my attention was the different interpretations one could have of the album’s title: “If You Wait”. A hopeful mind would read it as a possibility: “If you wait, I will be yours.”, but a helpless one would read it as a sign of loss: “If you wait, I’ll be gone.” Waiting always seems to be so hard and uncertain that one may not always be ready for the challenge, but the thing with this album is that you don’t really have to wait more than 3:22 minutes to realize it is a work of art. From the very beginning, it feels like you got a magical ticket to explore this very private and mysterious world. It is almost as if you knew you were an outsider but no one can notice your presence so you decide to stay and try to get the most of it. Each song conveys a sense of fulfillment but, at the same time, a constant craving. It is nostalgic yet present, it is mysterious yet clear and it is brilliant yet… wait, no, no yet this time, it is brilliant, period.
“Hey Now” is the perfect way to introduce the album and the band itself. The mystifying voice of Hanna Reid salutes us and it is through her changing shades that we perceive doubt and possibility, as well as anger and fear. Hanna has perfect pitch, she can jump from a low note to an extremely high one without even breaking a sweat and this is one of the main reasons why their live performances are flawless. Plus, have you noticed how unbelievably beautiful she is?
Like seriously, how perfect is she? She looks amazing, with or without any make-up on. Why Universe? Why not me?
I chose this version of “Hey Now” because I think it really shows how talented they all are. Have you noticed how the guitar interplays with the keyboards all along? That’s just so inspiring, and totally the work of the talented and handsome Dan Rothman and Dot Major.
“I’m the British version of Channing Tatum, my guns are fully loaded.”
“I’m the cooler version of Harry Styles, my hair loves me.”
Now, as regards the lyrics of the song, one may say it is about a breakup and all the different stages you go through when a relationship is over, which doesn’t sound too original, but it’s the melody and the vocals that make it so groundbreaking.
“Wasting My Young Years” is THE song of the album, so secretive and intimate, it is almost impossible not to feel related to its lyrics. This song is about a pretty ugly breakup and probably a very uncertain ending: “I don’t know what you are, don’t leave me hanging on”, which is the worst feeling one can experience: waiting for the other person to decide if you are worthy or not…
“Interlude” is by far my favorite song in the album. According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “Interlude” can have three different meanings: 1) a period of time between events or activities; 2) a brief romantic or sexual meeting or relationship; and 3) a short piece of music that is played between the parts of a longer one, a drama, or a religious service. Obviously, this song is about sex… (Just kidding). Though it could be about sex, the song intends to break with the album’s dynamic and sets the mood for a disclosure of the most private feelings and emotions. To me it feels like a description of how fragile one can feel when thinking/dreaming about a lover that seems to be physically gone but is still very much present: Is this person going to love me when I wake up? Or was it all just a dream? The piano in crescendo adds a lot of intensity to this vulnerable setting. “Could you have your arms around my heart?” she sings and we sigh.
“If You Wait” is the last song and it is the perfect way to end a flawless album. Its defiant tone is amazing and how the lyrics convey this person is too numb to trust in someone right now is just extraordinary. Though she is willing to get carried away, that doesn’t mean she is giving in her heart. And it is amazing how the verb “take on” is used, as if she were ready to take on this challenge with foreseen results…
All in all, through its deep and intimate melodies and lyrics, this album challenges you to get in touch with your own personal feelings. And I think this is what makes London Grammar so imposing and unique that there’s no need for tricky comparisons or criticisms. Let them be. They have created an alternative sound with the guitar, the piano and the keyboards interplaying with Hanna’s magnificent vocals. It’s like a dream come true and it was definitely worth the wait.
*Lilian, cannot thank you enough for your contribution!
Por qué la visión de estas dos mujeres importa
Hace un tiempo que me pregunto si Malena Pichot es la versión argentina de Lena Dunham… Aclaro, no es que estoy todo el día pensando en esto mientras fumo una pipa y cuento mariposas, sino que a veces cuando hablamos con amigas sobre quiénes son nuestros referentes femeninos a nivel creativo, los nombres que saltan son el de Malena a nivel nacional y el de Lena a nivel Dios… No se asusten, ahora les explico por qué, sonsos.
No me voy a hacer la precursora del Dunhanismo, como hacen muchos cuando algo se masifica: a Lena la conocí como la conocieron todos, por su serie Girls en HBO. En realidad, empecé a mirar la serie esperando encontrar una precuela de Sex & The City, pero descubrí algo muy diferente con lo que me podía identificar incluso mucho más: el mundo real en el que vivo. Cuatro amigas de veintitantos años que tienen realidades completamente distintas y cuyas vidas carecen de lujo y a veces hasta de motivaciones. En definitiva, cuatro personas que están tratando de abrirse paso por la vida.
Lena escribe y protagoniza (incluso a veces dirige) Girls y este año saldrá su primer libro, que ya promete ser un bestseller. Pero, a pesar del éxito mundial de su serie, Lena es criticada por miles de personas que parece que esperaran ansiosos los episodios de la serie para decir barbaridades sobre su programa. Es increíble que en pleno siglo XXI todavía haya gente pacata que comente que los desnudos de la serie son innecesarios, que algunos personajes son insoportables (¿según quién y desde qué perspectiva?) y que el personaje principal es una “gordita” que come y dice lo que quiere y a veces hasta se viste mal… ¡Cómo se atreve!
Con Malena pasó y sigue pasando algo parecido: escribe su propio material y está en boca de todos, así que no tardaron en aparecer detractores. Y el argentino tiene una característica muy particular: piensa que sos un inútil y no le importás a nadie hasta que le importás a todos y sos literalmente lo más (al menos por un tiempo, hasta que volvés a ser el loser que solías ser). Quizás esto es una característica general del mundo en tiempo real en el que vivimos, pero a veces me parece que también es un aspecto bien argentino. Malena no era nadie en los medios hasta que se convirtió en todo, y en reuniones y fiestas se la cita tanto como se cita a los Simpsons, con el gustito adicional de que es “nuestra”.
Momento de confesión: a mí no siempre me cayó bien Malena. Lo digo con sinceridad porque creo que uno puede cambiar de opinión si está abierto a hacerlo. Cuando vi los videos de Cualca por primera vez, creí que eran mal educados y aunque algunas de las cosas que se planteaban me parecían ciertas, pensaba que no estaba bien masificar la boludez o mostrarla de esa manera para que todos se rieran de un infeliz de 30 y pico que se creía copado. Para mí eso era aceptar la boludez, generalizarla y casi “normalizarla”. Pero más tarde, cuando comencé a escribir, entendí que la creatividad tiene un aspecto maravilloso y catastrófico al mismo tiempo: uno no sabe cómo se va a interpretar lo que uno crea.
Y finalmente entendí Cualca. Es cierto que probablemente mucha gente lo miraba y pensaba que la realidad que mostraba Malena estaba bien, que era lo que “había” que hacer. Pero quizás ella mostraba eso para señalar la decadencia de la sociedad moderna en la que vivimos, o quizás lo hacía por otras razones que no se me ocurren en este momento, o por ninguna en verdad. Lo cierto es que ni Malena, ni Lena, ni yo, ni nadie, podemos controlar lo que la gente interpreta. Hay un texto de Foucault llamado Nietzsche, Freud, Marx en el que se señala que las interpretaciones son meramente interpretaciones de interpretaciones, haciendo de esto un ciclo inacabable. No hay forma de predecir lo que una expresión artística puede generar ni qué rumbo va a tomar ese ciclo inacabable, pero no por eso hay que dejar de expresarse. Y creo que eso es lo más valioso de Lena y Malena: no tienen miedo a exponerse por no poder controlar las reacciones de la gente.
Lena comenzó haciendo videos en la universidad y luego hizo la película Tiny Furniture. Finalmente, gracias al director Judd Apatow, consiguió un contrato con HBO y lanzó Girls, una serie que rompió con los estereotipos de mujeres tan arraigados en la sociedad, y con la que se pueden identificar chicas de clase media de todas las edades y nacionalidades, ya que lo que describe la serie no es un “tipo” de mujer, sino cómo es la mujer en general. Y lo mismo hizo Malena con La loca de mierda y Por ahora, series que rompieron con lo “políticamente correcto” y donde no solo se describe a la mujer argentina actual sino a los hombres y mujeres en general, algo que a veces molesta a muchos porque no siempre nos hace quedar bien, pero que no deja ser cierto.
Creo que Malena y Lena exponen a una sociedad que muchas veces confunde los valores y establece mal sus prioridades. Con miradas fuertes y determinantes, ambas logran ser la voz de muchas mujeres (“creo que puedo ser la voz de mi generación”, dice Hanna, el personaje que interpreta Dunham en Girls), que hasta hace un tiempo no se animaban a ser quiénes son o se sentían solas en este mundo tan exigente y tan poco gentil. Ambas son referentes de la libertad femenina, del feminismo entendido como un movimiento que busca darles lugar a mujeres con opiniones marcadas y no un club de mujeres que odian a los hombres (nada más lejos de eso). Lena y Malena son referentes del feminismo porque no se encasillan, porque no siguen las normas que dictan lo que debería ser una mujer. Nadie es solo una cosa, o al menos quiero creer que no es así.
Tanto Lena como Malena son voces auténticas e indomables que no temen decir algo que puede parecer incorrecto. Eso es el arte, el arte debe incomodar, no temer a equivocarse y buscar el cambio. Malena no es la misma persona que era cuando parodió su propia ruptura amorosa en La loca de mierda y Lena no es la misma chica que se filmó desnuda en la fuente de la universidad para demostrar que no tenía prejuicios sobre su cuerpo. Sin embargo, ambas tomaron sus experiencias y las utilizaron para producir contenidos originales que inspiran a millones de chicas que quieren desvincularse de las convenciones sociales tradicionales y aceptar con grandeza la tarea de ser líderes de sus propias vidas.
(WARNING: This contains spoilers!)
Raise your hand if you’re excited about Season 2 of Orphan Black! (The whole Internet raises a hand.)
We’re all in this together now, but I know I’m not the only one who got on the Orphan Black train a little late. I heard about it from my best friend and co-blogger Annie, who warned me it was going to blow my mind. After watching the first episode I was so hooked I binged watched the entire season over a weekend.
Even though Season 1 has received universal acclaim and most of us TV junkies are obsessed with the show by now, some may still ask: What is so great about Orphan Black? Well, the question should be: What is NOT great about Orphan Black? This show is not like anything you’ve seen before. Here’s what I love the most about it.
So much more than a sci-fi show
You may not have watched the show, but unless you have been living under a rock, you must know it’s about clones. This theme may seem a little over the top, but I can assure you it only serves as a platform. A common misconception is that, being a sci-fi show, you won’t see much character development. It’s actually the opposite: The show is surprisingly character-driven, filled with human drama, a variety of complex characters and witty dialogue. And the fact that there is cloning involved is what makes all of this possible. This show is about so many things, it doesn’t rely on the cloning theme to get all of its shocking value. Also, the subject is treated in such a realistic manner that you may start thinking there could be more than one of you wandering around the globe.
I’ve already mentioned there are a variety of complex characters. Well, the interesting part about this is that the majority of the leading roles are actually played by only one actor. I’m talking about Tatiana Maslany: The only actress on Earth who could play a bunch of characters that are genetically identical and yet extremely different. The costume designer and the hair and makeup crew do an amazing job in giving each clone her specific look, but Tatiana is the one who does her magic to really set them apart through mannerisms, posture, accents (British, Russian, Ukranian, American, whaaat?), and even the tone of voice. Each clone is so unique that I always forget it’s the same actress playing all these parts! Cross my heart and hope to die! (Sorry for overreacting.) And as if this wasn’t enough to blow our minds, there are also scenes where Tatiana is playing a clone impersonating another clone: Sarah as Beth, Alison as Sarah, Sarah as Alison, Sarah as Katja, Helena as Sarah as Beth. Sometimes I wonder if she’s actually human.
The rest of the cast is amazing as well, and they’re all essential to the storyline, but there is one actor who I think really stands out and is not in the least outshined by Tatiana Maslany’s greatness. I’m talking about Jordan Gavaris, who plays Felix, Sarah’s foster brother, best friend and eternal sidekick. He, like Tatiana, masters the art of giving the character a unique feel through mannerisms, accent and overall attitude. His British accent is spot-on; I actually thought he was British for the first few episodes. That is until I googled him and found out all about him, including the fact that he is an Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift fan, which made me love him even more. He is simply perfect in the role of Felix: He brings in the sass, becomes the voice of reason and provides a major comic relief to the high drama plotlines. I wish I had a Felix in my life…
Another thing I love about the show is that I’m constantly on the edge of my seat while watching it. I think this is the main reason why so many people ended up binge watching the first season like me. Each episode ends with a nerve-wrecking cliffhanger that makes you want to jump immediately to the next one. Season 1 left a whole lot of questions unanswered, which I think gave us fans a bittersweet feeling of painful excitement over the agonizing months of waiting for the next season. Thank God the wait is almost over!
There are so many other things I love about Orphan Black: The clothes, the location, Paul’s hotness, Kira’s cuteness… I even love the theme song, which I think it’s perfect for the show because it’s hypnotizing and obscure, but still catchy. I love it so much I made it my ring tone!
I can safely say Orphan Black is one of the best sci-fi shows on TV right now. If you didn’t get the Orphan Black buzz yet, this is the perfect time to catch up on Season 1 and start enjoying Season 2, which premieres this Saturday, April 19th!