Once the thing for hipsters claiming to rack up the first of what has reached five million YouTube views of First Aid Kit’s career-launching Fleet Foxes cover, First Aid Kit have established themselves as a duo with staying power. Their third album Ruins affirms the Swedish sister’s radio-friendly Americana pop as yet another record well worth listening to.
While there’s not been a huge jump musically since predecessor Stay Gold, lyrics such as “Nothing matters, all is futile/And it’s fading fast” on opener Rebel Heart show that these sisters are singing about matters deeper than love affairs between Johnny Cash and June Carter as they were on Emmylou on 2011 album The Lions Roar.
The opener sets the tone of heartbreak that follows: “Sometimes the night cuts through me like a knife/I know, it’s a shame” on It’s A Shame, and the melancholic “Fireworks” almost nods thematically to ABBA’s Happy New Year, with lyrics such as “Why do I do this to myself/When I know the way it ends”, with the ‘70s group’s “Here we are, me and you/Feeling lost and feeling blue”.
Distant Star experiments with vocals in a way the band haven’t quite ventured before, and title track Ruins stands out for its fast-moving structure and melodies that rise as quickly as they fall.
There was a shift at some point since 2013’s Stay Gold where the duo proved they were more than their counterparts from the mid-Noughties folky era. While not featuring on this record, 2017’s “direct and angry” single You Are The Problem Here showed them using their platform to sing about contemporary issues – just as their influences did before them. Their staying power – which has not been diminished by this new record – proves their talent and ability to writing memorable hooks by also emulating some of their heroes, from Emmylou Harris to Joni Mitchell.
Ruins is not much of a departure from their previous work, but existing fans won’t be disappointed by this record – it’s familiar, but delivered with such conviction it leaves you wanting to hear it again.
‘Ruin’ is out now via Columbia Records. The albums full track listing is…
01. Rebel Heart
02. It’s a Shame
05. To Live a Life
06. My Wild Sweet Love
07. Distant Star
09. Hem of Her Dress
10. Nothing Has to Be True