An Album Review: First Aid Kit’s ‘Ruins’

In their fourth studio album, Swedish folk duo First Aid Kid present a sweet view of reflection and refinement. In ‘Ruins,’ released Jan. 19, the band finds comfort in all its usual sweet spots while also demonstrating a progression in sound.

Much of the duo’s strength in this album lies in the songwriting and vocal prowess of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg. Their equally matched vocals intertwine and diverge in surprising and delightful ways, while their keenness for country and folk nostalgia do its part to reel you into their simple, yet unique sound.

“Rebel Heart,” the album’s opening track is slow, haunting and aloof. There is a hidden prowess to it that only ever feels alluded to. Still, it opens up nicely.

“It’s a Shame” is a nice compliment to “Rebel Heart.” Its lighter melody is carried by rolling drums and powerful vocals. There is an innocent optimism to the song, and though it is about distance, there is a feeling of progression not yet found, but right around the corner. There is pain in the lyrics, but it’s not bleak.

While the first two tracks do a good job of setting the pace of the album, “Fireworks” fizzles with less excitement and perspective. It’s not a terrible song, but it adds little in comparison to the other tracks.

First Aid Kit gets on track though, with “Postcard.” The song harbors a classic country vibe with more contemporary lyrics, proving that the band finds clarity in converging older sounds with a modern perspective.

Some songs miss their mark though, most notably the title track “Ruins” which runs aimlessly toward our psyche without ever really penetrating it. Moments of lackluster don’t take away from other songs though, and there are moments of pure lyrical genius.

“Well, a goodbye never seems finished/Just like these songs that I write/They hang aloft like stars in the night/But there’s nothing there but the illusion of a light,” the duo sings in “Distant Stars.”
The duality of having two lead singers also adds to the album. In songs such as

“To Live a Life,” there is an enjoyable cadence and pace to the lyrics led by lovely vocals. It’s an easy song to get lost in. “Hem of Her Dress” pushes the
band’s sound further from its center, and crescendos quite nicely.

Overall, ‘Ruins’ is an album of refinement. Its twangy sweet melodies floats along in a very pleasing way, and its lulls are easily forgotten. Though there isn’t a real change in direction for first Aid Kit, they prove that at the very least, they are consistent in their sound, and they are pretty damn good at it too.

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