Track of the Day: 'America' by First Aid Kit

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

If a multinational company based in Belgium can rename its beer “America,” then a Swedish folk group can cover an iconic song with the same name.

With news that Budweiser will change its label to say “America” up until Election Day, I was reminded of one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs, one that inevitably makes it on every road trip playlist of mine. It’s hard for me to fully harness Simon & Garfunkel covers—see, for example, this one of “The Sound of Silence” by heavy metal group Disturbed that is inexplicably heard on rock stations nationwide right now—but the First Aid Kit cover of “America” is a beautiful exception:

The sister duo, whose Old West feel might make you want to ride a horse through the desert at dusk, released the cover in 2014. Two years earlier, the duo performed the song in front of Paul Simon at the Polar Music Prize, and he rewarded them with a standing ovation. For their version of the song, the sisters dropped the saxophone and pipe organ of the original and paired their lofty vocals with an acoustic guitar, piano, and string orchestra—a gorgeous mix for the 1968 protest song (which, fittingly to Budweiser’s framing for the election, was used in a Bernie Sanders campaign ad).

Indeed, at bars across the country this summer, Americans will be singing, “I’ve come to look for America.”

Update from reader Jim, who begins, “Greetings (as my draft board put it to me)”:

Holy shit, that version of “America” is gorgeous! I rarely like cover versions as well as originals, but First Aid Kit’s cover was better than the original. Now for the follow-up: Have they recorded “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her?”  I can’t think of any group I’ve heard that could cover that more perfectly.  

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