First Aid Kit – Ruins

‘Ruins’ cements First Aid Kit’s place in the Americana songbook.

First Aid Kit - Ruins

‘Ruins’ cements First Aid Kit’s place in the Americana songbook.

Label: Columbia Records
Released: 19th January 2018
Rating: ★★★★

Approaching ten years in the game, First Aid Kit came into 2017 balancing critical acclaim with newfound exposure through a series of car commercials. Having reflected on the success of their last two albums, ‘Ruins’ finds the Swedish duo staking their claim as songwriting mainstays.

‘Rebel Heart’ is a brooding opener which culminates in a flourish of spidery guitar and a sombre trumpet solo, and hints at the increased confidence and scope with which the Soderberg sisters have been able to approach album four.

Produced by Tucker Martine, the hidden hand behind American folk-rockers The Decemberists’ steady rise, ‘Ruins’ is a reflective and mournful piece, ruminating on heartbreak with a sigh more than a howl. By their fourth album, First Aid Kit have crafted an accomplished sound, the acoustic backbone expertly complimented by tight percussion and masterful keyboards.

Despite its morose lyrics, lead single ‘It’s a Shame’ is one of the more musically upbeat songs on the record, with playful organ flitting around the edges of the mix. Arriving early, ‘Fireworks’ is the most affecting piece, a lilting slow-dance framing a sorrowful tale of lost love, as Klara Soderberg strains for the peak of its yearning chorus.

The sparse ‘To Live a Life’ pares back to a fingerpicked guitar, before a sweep of strings lifts the mid-section. Elsewhere the discordant bridge of ‘Distant Star’ represents ‘new ground, while ‘Hem of Her Dress’ careens into a drunken singalong that’s sure to go down a treat live. ‘Nothing Has to be True’ closes the record in an expansive crescendo that has Martine’s fingerprints all over it and finds the band aiming higher than ever as they develop their musical palette.

Recorded last winter in Portland, Oregon, across these solemn songs you can almost hear the crunch of leaves underfoot and see the breath misting in the cold air. It’s a bold move for a band firmly on the rise to veer towards the contemplative songs of ‘Ruins’ instead of capitalising on some of the more carefree moments of 2014’s ‘Stay Gold’, but it’s a risk that pays off. Drawing on a range of classic influences and captured expertly on record, ‘Ruins’ cements First Aid Kit’s place in the Americana songbook. Dillon Eastoe

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