First Aid Kit
This may mark a rebirth year for First Aid Kit. After scoring glowing reviews for 2012’s The Lion’s Roar and 2014’s Stay Gold, the Swedish duo moved on from longtime producer Mike Mogis to work with Tucker Martine (Decemberists, Modest Mouse), giving their brand of shimmering alt-country a more raw and live feel. Despite the new sonic scope of their latest LP, Ruins stands as the most intimate and introspective album to date for the Söderberg sisters. Largely written about guitarist and co-vocalist Klara Söderberg’s recent breakup, the ten-track LP treats heartache with a rather sunny disposition, wonderfully established by the Bakersfield Sound veneer of “It’s a Shame,” the pianodrenched Muscle Shoals tribute “Postcard” and the gang vocal outro of the potent “Hem of Her Dress.”
Not only do Klara and Johanna adroitly utilize a wealth of instrumentation on the album — “Fireworks” benefits wonderfully from sweeping hits of strings and “Distant Star” features an organ sound that propels the song into harmonic bliss — but they also bring a terrific backing band, featuring R.E.M’s Peter Buck, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith, to help them experiment with a variety of writing styles and modes, while mixing ambient sounds into Martine’s punchy production sound. Lyrically and sonically, Ruins
helps First Aid Kit give listeners a mature, realized and often heartbreaking version of this young band’s oeuvre. (Columbia)
Are these songs that you could have written five years ago?
Klara: I like to think that we are evolving all the time, and that’s how we see our records as well. That kinda takes the pressure off, like, ‘Okay, to create this whole new big thing I have to be creatively different than before.’ But we definitely thought that we wanted to change some things up and we’ve become more open as far as arrangements and stuff. I don’t think we would have done that before.
life down. Maine gently sings, “I think I’ll stay inside / If you don’t think that they’d mind / I can’t let it find me,” over a pulsating club beat on “Find Me.” What “it” is is never explicit, but the fear and anxiety appear to be overcome on the dance-heavy track, with its repetitive, digitized saxophone and squeaky vocal samples. “Country,” the album’s lead single, which also features guest vocals from Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, is driven by Maine’s impassive
Does it cross your mind that people you admire will be hearing it?
Johanna: I don’t think we’ll ever be able to fathom that Paul Simon and Emmylou Harris and Jack White and Patti Smith could hear these songs. But I really do think it’s a positive thing, and I have to stress that all the idols of ours that we’ve met have been so sweet. It goes to show that most musicians are not assholes or arrogant rock stars, they’re just human beings who are really talented.
croon, like he’s deciphering a lingering memory. The House is broken up with several other short, sub-two-minute vignettes — Maine’s dad’s vocals are Auto-Tuned on the love-infused “Understanding,” and on “Åkeren,” Okay Kaya recites a Norwegian poem about Ricky and Julie, two romantic personas who appear throughout. Maine’s ability to draw out peculiar emotions and thoughtfully pairing them with euphoric sounds in a deliberate way makes The House a natural and more than satisfying sequel to Pool. (Domino) ROCK