Album of the Week:
First Aid Kit
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The third album from Johanna and Klara Soderberg arrives more than three years after the duos’ sophomore release. In the interim the sisters battled touring fatigue, irritation with each other, and on the part of Klara, the dissolution of her engagement. The siblings ended their separation from each other (they lived in different countries), reuniting at Joshua Tree to begin writing songs for Ruins. It’s an apropos title as the Soderbergs total the costs of their personal and professional maturation.
First Aid Kit’s first and second albums were recorded with Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes) in Omaha. Their love of American roots music shone through in their style of writing and singing, and not a wisp of their Swedish upbringing seeped into their vocals. Their inspirations were distinctly American, with songs that referenced country singers (Emmylou”), and an album influenced by Robert Frost (Stay Gold). Now the sisters have taken a new step, moving to Portland, Oregon, to record with producer Tucker Martine.
Ruins doesn’t represent a drastic change in the Soderberg’s sound. Their songs are still steeped in country and folk veins, but with slightly expanded production, courtesy of Mr. Martine and a band that includes Peter Buck (R.E.M.) on guitar, and Mackenzie Smith ( Midlake) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco) on percussion. The pair’s father, Benkt Soderberg, plays bass and additional player offer trumpet, pedal steel, and keyboards. As solid as their backing band is, First Aid Kit songs s live and breathe on the sister’s harmonies. Their lyrics aren’t sophisticated; their language is precise and straightforward, but their interwoven vocals offer a complexity that captures both strength and fragility.
Ruin is a study in how maturity is built from the bones of broken or strained relationships, and how beauty and power rises from the destruction of dreams that proved to be only mirages.
Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)