We’ve been long awaiting First Aid Kit’s fifth album, Ruins. After the relatively high charting success of ‘Stay Gold’ back in 2014, the Swedish duo had a lot to live up to. Produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs, Decemberists), rather than Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Julian Casablancas) who produced their last two albums, we were excited to hear the result of their latest album.
They are a duo who have truly developed and matured over time. Nine years after their stripped back debut, Drunken Trees, they’ve delivered a thickly produced, full-band sound, giving a firm nod to their country inspirations, including the likes of Carter Family, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.
Thankfully, their signature sound of guitar-based music, delightful harmonies, and pounding tom drums remains. It is a true breath of fresh air, amid a sea of musicians turning to a more electronic sound.
‘Ruins’ is clearly inspired by Country and Americana music. It is laden with lush harmonies, sliding guitars, and lyrics of love and loss.
One of my favourite tracks off the album, Fireworks, about unrequited love, is a song that immediately got into my head. It has a melancholic feel to it, but is still upbeat. The twinkly, magical sounding intro has a warm 1960’s country-pop feel with elements of psychedelic rock, which I really love.
I like the layering of sound in this track. The deep arpeggiated electric guitar, intertwining around the vocal melody with the subtle “oohs” backing vocals works well together. The ethereal harmonies in the chorus are satisfying and lift the song.
This sickly-sweet song was described by FAK as “one of our most traditional songs” and that is immediately evident with the honky tonk piano and guitar slides.
This ballad, with lyrics of bidding farewell to a lover, transports us to the American West. The influence of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, who they have previously cited as their inspirations, is very evident here. Although it’s an impressive homage to their inspirations, I wasn’t as fond of this track (and style) as much as the others.
To Live A Life
One of my favourites on the album. It starts off simply, with Klara’s vocals and a gentle guitar riff going round but gradually more instruments enter. Two minutes in, the song is lifted by the introduction of several instruments including a guitar slide, piano and shimmery synth. The melody was so angelic I had this song on repeat!
Another great track! Opening with a pretty, gentle fingerstyle guitar part, this track feels like something off The Lion’s Roar or Stay Gold. The melody and harmonies are exquisite and the slide guitar, wah-wah effect, and strings created the lush dreaminess of this track.
Hem of Her Dress
This interesting track stood out to me. It starts off gently and two thirds in comes the climax; the loud sing-a-long accompanied by a horn section. This powerful finale caught me by surprise, and I loved what I heard. This track really demonstrates that FAK aren’t afraid to experiment.
In all, First Aid Kit haven’t produced a ground-breaking, or strikingly different album, but they have also proved they didn’t need to. This album is far more polished than the others; it contains some interesting elements while demonstrating the sisters are sticking to their signature sound.
They are able to create beautiful, memorable melodies with flawless harmonies. This record demonstrates that they know their strengths and that they can take on the genre of country and Americana, and pull it off brilliantly.
Listen to Ruins, here