Album Review: First Aid Kit - Ruins (Columbia)
Exploring heartache and despair in a robust fashion.
With a name like Ruins, you’ll likely come to the assumption that this album won’t address pleasant matters. Well, you would be correct. The Soderberg siblings (Klara and Johanna) have had great success as an indie folk duo which peaked with their last album, Stay Gold, released in 2014. Stay Gold sold nearly 200,000 copies worldwide, serving as their breakthrough. However, what followed was a burnout and fallout between the two sisters which lasted for more than a few years.
They reunited for this latest album, which is their darkest yet but also can be seen as one of their best.
First Aid Kit has dabbled in fatalism before. They have always acknowledged a dark cloud, as well as a silver lining when it comes to life. For example, their song ‘Stay Gold’ was about existential despair and the resulting fear that comes with it. However, there’s also ‘My Silver Lining’ which is about the uncertainty of life, but how that makes life beautiful. This introspective musing is what makes
First Aid Kit universally popular.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to the strong fatalistic attitudes contained within Ruins, which are apparent from the opening song, ‘Rebel Heart’. They harshly sing: ‘I don’t know what it is that makes me run. That makes me want to shatter everything that I have done.’ It isn’t as subtle as Stay Gold so if pessimism isn’t your thing then this album, risks being a bit of a turn-off. That being said, songs like ‘Postcards’ and ‘Distant Star’ are rather familiar in tone to First Aid Kit songs prior to this latest album. Emotional, thought-provoking and self-reflective.
Another factor that continues to be consistently strong in Ruins is Klara and Johanna's effortless ability to harmonise together in melody. The haunting melancholy in ‘Fireworks’ reveals them as solo singers. ‘Distant Star’ has a raw vocal production. At the core of First Aid Kit, are two voices and the many vocal pallets and dynamics used between them.
Ruins harks back to Stay Gold with the song ‘Nothing Has To Be True’ which isn’t as fatalistic as ‘Rebel Heart’. Overall, Ruins is a journey into heartache in all of its shades. This is First Aid Kit being deliciously dark and basically making us bawl again, but consistently adding more musical gems to their oeuvre.
Ruins was released on January 19th. It is now available for streaming on Spotify.