Grow­ing Up


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

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