First Aid Kit

Stay Gold

Columbia

Jun 06, 2014 Issue #50 - June/July 2014 - Future Islands Bookmark and Share


It's a fun game to ask someone unfamiliar with First Aid Kit where the band hails from. Tennessee is a common guess, as is Georgia, and the fact that the Söderberg sisters are from Sweden always raises eyebrows. And while this is curious information, the band Johanna and Klara have worked so hard to build is no curiosity. Instead, First Aid Kit has evolved by leaps and bounds over the course of three albums, released in a scant four years. Their latest, and first for a major label, Stay Gold, builds upon their impressive talents, showing an even greater facility with songwriting.

First Aid Kit possesses a strong sense of musical history, and Stay Gold, as the other two full-lengths, is full of knowing references to Americana and American music. The sisters invoke a hiccupy "Girls they want to have fu-un" on the superb "Waitress Song." The talent for storytelling is incredible, as First Aid Kit is growing capable of telling the same kind of bittersweet stories of downtrodden characters that populate the lyric sheets of Paul Simon or Bruce Springsteen. There's hope for these people, too, as the sadness is always countered by a cautious optimism. "I still remember how you used to say/'Something good will come out of this,'" they sing on "Cedar Lane." The song takes an aggressive tone as the sisters ask again and again, "How could I break away from you?"

There's nothing out of place, nothing extraneous, and barely a misstep to be found on Stay Gold. Any concern over their ability to stay true to their growth on a major label (do people still worry about such things?) was certainly mollified by Mike Mogis, who oversaw their previous album, The Lion's Roar, returning as producer. Mogis understands how to get the most out of the Söderbergs, inflecting the music with enough touches to make it stand out from the country-tinged folk-rock crowd, while still knowing that what should be front and center is the sisters themselves, and their astonishing rapport. Stay Gold should surely find itself in contention as one of the best albums of the year as 2014 draws to an end. (www.thisisfirstaidkit.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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