First Aid Kit sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg have that special ability that only siblings have to harmonize in a way that transcends music. Their voices have a quality that reaches inside a listener and plucks your heartstrings. The sisters have a purity of sound, a genuineness to their vocals that conveys yearning and loneliness, despite their young age. Loss is the currency that First Aid Kit trades in.
From the opening track “Rebel Heart” the band has taken steps forward, incorporating a fuller sound and more orchestration, without removing the emphasis on their vocals as the main instrument. There are even Mexican trumpets over the end of the song that sound like they could have come straight off a Marty Robbins album.
“Fireworks” is a stand out, really embodying the sound that has defined First Aid Kit from the beginning. The stripped down instrumentation allowing the vocals to soar. The vocals themselves are so filled with longing and yearning. “Why do I do this to myself/Every time I know the way it ends/ Before it’s even begun.”
“Postcard” is a return to their more country leanings. It sounds like a song that would be at home on a Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris album, complete with slide guitar. It has a bouncy beat that stands in direct contrast to lyrics draped in loss.
“To Live a Life” sounds like it could have come off of Stay Gold. The haunting melody of a single voice talking about “impossible dreams,” raises goosebumps. But the song builds to a crescendo when the harmony kicks in, sending it into almost angelic vocal realms.
On “My Wild Sweet Love” the harmonies dance playfully in and out of each other. Two voices complimenting and then dancing apart, soaring up and down scales. The sweetness, and happy recollections of a living past. Something that is so fresh that it is still palpable.
“Hem of Her Dress” is instantly anthemic. A solo guitar and vocals, rising out of the quiet, building in momentum like an Irish drinking song. One voice becomes two, building in intensity until finally, they are joined by a chorus. This will be a crowd participation song, listening to it makes you picture throngs of fans singing along.
The album closer “Nothing Has to be True” builds from a single voice into a cacophony of instruments, and ends with an uncharacteristic drone. Leaving the listener a little unsettled.
First Aid Kit is changing, becoming more of a band, with an added emphasis on instrumentation. Their voices are still the stars, but now they rise out of a much fuller sound, and at times compete a little with the background for dominance. There is enough here to keep core fans happy, and their more dream pop leanings might draw in new ones. Ruins doesn’t really challenge their sound too much, and really highlights the joyous sound of Soderberg sister’s amazing voices.
Preorder your copy of the white vinyl release of Ruins here.
First Aid Kit is on tour now. You can buy tickets here.
Watch the 80’s teen angst of the “Fireworks” video below: