Swedish Duo First Aid Kit Aren’t Afraid of Facing Fears on Cathartic New Album ‘Ruins’
Though just now entering their mid-20s, Swedish duo First Aid Kit have already released four studio albums. Made up of the Söderberg sisters Klara and Johanna, the folksy pair are now unveiling their latest effort, the cathartic “Ruins.” Out Jan. 19, the album finds the sisters repairing once tarnished relationships, and saying goodbye to those gone forever.
Between 2014’s “Stay Gold” and now, the sisters experienced hurt, two fold. One by way of Klara’s separation from her fiancé and the other stemming from a would-be split between the sister’s themselves. The beautiful part of “Ruins,” aside from the name which forgoes beating around the bush, is that its their way of seeking closure and liberation. “It’s a Shame” comes to mind as the most apparent example of this theme. Through retro feels – i.e. sudden chord changes, galloping drums and a tambourine – the standout single discusses what the sisters call the “emptiness and desperation you feel when you’re suddenly on your own after a relationship has ended.” The song details the moments of retrospective regret (“Sometimes I want you to stay/I know it’s a shame”) and acceptance of what’s already transpired (“Trying so hard to be of use/But what you cannot gain you lose”). “Fireworks” too carves a path of broken confidence after being trapped in your own mind so much that you lose sight of those around you. “I know the way it ends before it’s even begun/I am the only one at the finish line.” Sonically, it feels simultaneously saddening and uplifting. There’s a sincere beauty that flows through the track from start to finish, much like the album itself.
The country-inspired “Postcard” leaves behind the hipster-folk sounds found on the much of their previous work and instead subs in twangy vocals and slide guitar. The catharsis again finds its way onto the forefront. “Send me a postcard when you get to where you’re going,” Klara sings as her way of telling an ex-lover that you wish them well on their post-relationship journey.
Though the sister’s get most of the credit on this record, and deservedly so, they received help by way of REM’s Peter Buck and Glenn Kotche of Wilco, alongside their band – consisting of a steel guitar player, a drummer and the latest addition of a keyboardist/trombone player – work skillfully to mask the true soreness that spans the songwriting. The band’s musicianship shines on deep cuts like the minimal “Hem of Her Dress” and the opening “Rebel Heart.”
“Ruins” proves that even at such a young, even distractible age, the sisters Söderberg are more than willing to face their troubles head on, turning problem-relics into songs worthy of a listener’s attention. Being totally transparent about your self-doubt and regret is a recipe for successful songwriting if there ever was one, and the girls nailed it here. “Ruins” is a true peak into the most vulnerable parts of their minds – and all our minds, in fact.
“Ruins” is available Jan. 19 on Apple Music.