First Aid Kit: Ruins (Columbia) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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First Aid Kit



Jan 19, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“I want to give so much so freely/Not have to take it back,” sing Stockholm sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg on “Rebel Heart.” The first track of their fourth album sways with a knowing nostalgia, steady in its melody. But it is in its ramped-up closing half, as the pair sing in call-and-response harmonies which cut through on every second line, guitars glimmering, that you remember why First Aid Kit have stuck around for four albums at all.

Ruins is an album of hymns, of tunes that tell stories of lost love, while harking back to the long American tradition of country and folk music. Single “Postcard” sounds just like a twangy Dolly Parton track, a sepia-toned ode to old-style romanticism, and just one of many nods to the ‘70s influences to which the sisters, with wide eyes, look.

The very process of Ruins is rooted in Americana. Produced by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs), it was recorded in Portland, Oregon, a landscape drenched in musical tradition and fitting for the rousing harmonies and big choruses on which the Söderbergs thrive. As ever, the songs are draped in pedal steel, as well as featuring a host of Americana royalty: there is mandolin and guitar from R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck, and drums and percussion from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith.

The upbeat “It’s a Shame” is realist in its optimism, but there is just as much heartfelt matter in the slower lilt of “Fireworks,” or the effortless romanticism of “My Wild Sweet Love.” There are no tracks as instantly classic as 2012’s “Emmylou” or 2014’s “My Silver Lining,” but 2018’s offerings have a richer depth, and a new perspective: the sisters look back, as well as forward.

First Aid Kit does not reinvent the wheel on this fourth record. Ruins sticks to the well-trodden path of Americana, and does so with guns blazing. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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