First Aid Kit - Ruins
Through heartbreak First Aid Kit have crafted the best album of their career, never has the breakdown of a relationship sounded so grand and cinematic before.
The record which is aptly titled ‘Ruins’ describes Klara Soderberg (Who along with sister Johanna make up First Aid Kit) and her deeply personal turmoil as she witnesses her engagement fall to pieces around her. This isn’t your traditional heartbreak album though, with ‘Ruins’ never has the breakdown of a relationship sounded so grand and cinematic before.
Previous album Stay Gold saw the girls finally breakthrough to a commercial audience, They could have stuck to this almost formulaic folk sound, however instead inspired by their heartbreak First Aid Kit have crafted the most personal album of their career, whilst still managing to evolve and grow their indie folk sound.
The sisters have done this by bringing in acclaimed alternative producer Tucker Martine, whose renown for his methods of recording live and bringing in session musicians. This is an approach the girls have adopted for the first time in their career. One such session guitarist is none other than Peter Buck from R.E.M. who was keen to provide Klara and Johanna with guidance and his opinion on each track.
From the first moment you press play and hear 'Rebel Heart' it’s immediately apparent these two have had a massive effect on the bands sound. The tracks on this record sound so much more ra than the cleanly produced, almost sparkling sheen of Stay Gold
The deeper use of instrumentation has really broadened the sonics of the sisters, So Instead of the main focus being on their harmonies, it's now placed on the multiple layers of each track that are there to be uncovered. This has also allowed a much broader mix of genres to pour into the album, one moment you’re listening to Traditional Country on ‘Postcard' then 50’s ballad on ‘Fireworks’ and even Progressive Rock on album closer ‘Nothing Has To Be True’. The continuous changes could have been incredibly jarring but because of solid production and the overlapping theme of heartbreak that tie it together the record stays consistent.
Another constant that runs through the record is those previously mentioned harmonies that have always defined First Aid Kit. Klara and Johanna have such distinctive and different vocals, both impressive and equally soothing, but with opposite unique tones. When these are combined together however they find another level completely. This could be down to the way the sisters just subconsciously understand each other's voices, naturally blending together. This a phenomenon known as ‘Blood Harmony’, noticeable in other sister acts such as The Staves, HAIM, and looking further back 70’s rock band Heart.
It seems the time that both girls have spent apart from each other has only strengthened this harmonization, most noticeably on lead single ‘It’s A Shame’, a Fleetwood Mac styled pop tune that feels plucked from the seventies itself. It’s surprisingly refreshing to listen to a modern album that doesn’t attempt to redefine what music should sound like but instead reflect on the past and take inspiration from some of the greatest styles and sounds from the past seventy years.
Another notable track is ‘Hem Of Her Dress’ a song which perfectly mixes melancholic yet thoughtful lyrics on heartbreak. Starting out as a ballad that’s reflecting on times gone, however with one simple, yet incredible transition, the track change’s into an epic singalong reminiscent of ‘Hey Jude’ that ends with celebrating change and moving on.
To sum ‘Ruins’ up, I’d say that this is a record that either Fleetwood Mac or Simon & Garfunkel would be proud to list in their discography. Some may say that’s heavy praise to place upon a band, perhaps, however, I believe it is fully deserving.
For more on First Aid Kit make sure to check out our feature... Why 'You Are The Problem Here' is the most important track of 2017.