From out of the humble beginnings of singing carefree as fans at a public festival, and from out of Enskede, near the very heart of Sweden’s lovely capital city of Stockholm, come the indie/folk band named First Aid Kit, The band is known around the world for their melodic and despondent seasoned acoustic Americana, their literary songwriting, and their duo of vocalists which consists of the two darling sisters Klara and, the multi-instrumentalist, Johanna Söderberg. In 2014, the band released their domestically Platinum hit LP Stay Gold and after a near four year hiatus, they’ve come back and released their latest album, Ruins, this January. The album enlists the help of several well-accomplished musicians, most notably R.E.M’s Peter Buck on guitar, and Decemberists producer Tucker Martine.
Ruins starts off by taking its audience on a haunting journey with the opening track “Rebel Heart” The track easily elucidates the feelings of heartbreak which color the tones of the entire album. The song features a short, yet strong instrumental break that leads into an outro which lyrics and vocals propagate an endless melancholy, and elicits a sense of concrete nihilism.
The next song on the album, “It’s a Shame” describes the desperate feelings of loneliness one feels when they’ve finally come to the point where they realize they’re on their own. The duo look for affirmation that they’ve made the correct choices in life, and the assurance that those choices will lead them to feelings of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. Musically, the song is more upbeat than the albums opening track, and at the start the duo sing: “Lately, I’ve been thinking about the past. How there is no holding back. No point in wasting sorrow, on things that won’t be here tomorrow” lyrics that show that in between the suffocating and forlorn walls that surround them, there are flakes of optimism sprinkled throughout.
Later comes, “Post Card”, which is the most traditionally classical county inspired song the band has yet to produce. The song is full of acoustic twang and sets to spins a narrative about setting oneself free and chasing a wayward dream, to then send a postcard to those you’ve left behind in order to remind them all where you’ve been so far, and where it is that the roads ahead may lead you.
The title track “Ruins” is about picking out the good and the bad when it comes to shattered connections, whether in friendships or in love and then attempting to reconstruct these realities to try and make sense of them all.
The albums closer “Nothing Has to Be True” is the rawest the two sisters have ever been and is one of the most memorable tracks on the album, which effortlessly pulls at the listener’s heartstrings. Rather than relying on a heavy focus on layered harmonies, in this song, each vocalist opt to sing solo interchanging verses that are highlighted by a delicate ambiance and as the song reaches its conclusion, a voluminous percussion erupts, which slowly transforms into inundating noise.
It’s clear for those familiar with First Aid Kit that Ruins is more a refinement than an evolution of the bands sound. But I feel it is those refinements that work towards an intriguing cohesive whole that’s injected with an undeniable sense of sincerity, heartbreak, and the finality of endings, which creates an album which proves to be the bands greatest work yet, and that it grants a perfect unique utility that allows us to put on the record whenever we feel like taking a time-out in life for a healthy cry or a moment to be reflective and appreciate all the many miracles that life presents us.
It’s a Shame
Hem of Her Dress
Nothing Has to Be True.