A first-time listener to First Aid Kit might be surprised to learn of their Swedish nationality, such is their exceptional communication of American-style music. With Ruins, the fourth album of their career, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg appear to have cracked the industry with the eloquent use of their characteristic country-folk sound. It seems clear that this band’s rise to stardom is far from over.
The title track exemplifies the tone of the album with the use of pedal steel guitar and vocal harmonies in thirds, along with the lyrical theme of loss. ‘My Wild Sweet Love’ and ‘Hem of Her Dress’ are more uplifting tracks, with sophisticated drum beats and faster tempos being brought to the fore. Showcasing deft lyricism, rhythmic and dynamic play, as well as a choir and triumphant brass, ‘Hem of Her Dress’ can be viewed as the climax of the album.
On the other hand, the album’s lonesome lyrics can be somewhat repetitive, especially on melancholic songs such as ‘Fireworks,’ ‘To Live a Life,’ and ‘Nothing Has to Be True.’ Furthermore, there is plenty of room for improvisation in the vocal lines of the album, but the strict harmonies do not seem to adapt at any stage. That said, the shifting of sounds under the sisters’ voices allows for a welcome sense of spontaneity.
In a nutshell: Still firmly in the country-folk mould, Ruins manages to be both feel-good and heavy-hearted, proving a thoroughly enjoyable listen.