If you had to limit every nation on earth to one export each, Sweden’s would have to be popular music. Be it the slick, modern disco of Robyn, the new-age garage rock of The Hives or the octopus-limbed prog-metal of Opeth, the Swedes have always remained a driving force in modern music’s evolution. And who could forget Sweden produced the greatest pop group of all time, whose immaculate melodies and sizzling boy/girl dynamics reshaped the very notion of the pop song? I’m talking about Roxette, of course.

First Aid Kit are from Sweden – in case you hadn’t twigged during that circumlocutory opening paragraph. However, apart from the odd lyric on The Lion’s Roar about Stockholm winters, you’d never guess that the Söderberg sisters have an ounce of Scandi in them. This is because their second album was recorded in Omaha, Nebraska (with Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis on production duties) and, accordingly, carries all the traits of a great American country record. The Lion’s Roar is in fact more the roar of the winds on the open highway than the roar of an elk in a pine forest.

The title track opener sets the tone authoritatively for the rest of the album. An oaky-sounding acoustic guitar nestles closely to Söderberg’s precociously gnarled voice as other instruments swell for a waltzing chorus. The song has a rich and autumnal feel to it, but the sense of Americana yanks you in straightway: Soderberg has that gorgeous barbed-wire-dipped-in-chocolate vocal tone that all great country dames have, from Loretta Lynn to Lurleen Lumpkin. Next comes ‘Emmylou’, where the sisters name-check the likes of June Carter, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons and, surprisingly enough, Emmylou Harris. This is probably the strongest song on the record, mainly due to its cooing pedal-steel guitar and bittersweet chorus, where vast acres of heartache are packed into the lyrics, "I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June / If you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too."

Even after the stonking second track, First Aid Kit remain on top form right until the end. There are plenty of spine-shivering moments, notably the sisters’ ethereal harmonies on ‘To A Poet’ and ‘Dance To Another Tune’, and the instrumentation is always beautifully textured – you can actually get lost in the sylvan imagery it evokes. Things are stripped back on ‘New Year’s Eve’, but Klara’s voice, as it spread-eagles over a lone acoustic guitar, is like a magic carpet, and you travel with her on a pensive ‘stroll across the neighbourhood’, seeing the same cars blaring out pop songs that she sees and feeling the same ennui. The final song, ‘King of the World’, is less melancholy and has a genuine carnival kick to it. Here mariachi trumpets can-can with fiddles, all before Ohama’s own Milky Bar kid, Conor Oberst, returns to town to sing the second verse. Not many country/folk records have such a triumphant finale.

Overall, The Lion’s Roar is a bold, beautiful and assertive record that broods in all the right places but still manages to sound uplifting. The Swedish sisters channel a very American aesthetic in everything from their singing to the instruments they use, yet it never comes across affected. Last year, Lykke Li defined lush and bittersweet pop music with her magnificent Wounded Rhymes; in 2012, First Aid Kit could well usurp her throne. Sweden, free your daughters from the Volvo plants and the Ikea factories and give them all record deals instead.