First Aid Kit "Stay Gold"

Klara & Johanna Soderberg 2nd album broadens their musical horizon while offering more personal songs.

The worst thing about the Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit is their unfortunate choice of band name. The best thing about them is their beautifully crafted melodies. Or maybe it’s their interwoven harmonies that create a golden tapestry of sound. Then again it might be those clever introspective lyrics that ride on complex rhythms. Being that Klara and Johanna Soderberg are twenty-three and twenty-one years old it’s easy to forgive the less than stellar name choice, but their youth makes their musical maturity all the more impressive.

Although the Soderbergs are Swedish it’s hard to hear that in their music. There is no detectable accent in their vocals and their distinctly Americana leanings defy their background. Also, the album’s title is inspired by the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by the quintessentially American poet Robert Frost. His bittersweet sentiment captures a sense of fleeting time and inevitable loss. It isn’t what you’d expect as the foundation for a sophomore release from two young pop musicians, but that is what makes this album such a delightful surprise. The Soderbergs songs deal with loss, be it expectations , relationships, or innocence, but paired as they are with such glimmering melodies, that it’s impossible to focus on the melancholy aspects of the lyrics.

First Aid Kits debut, The Lion’s Roar, while filled with wonderful melodies, was a stripped down affair that reflected the sister’s connection to folk more than pop. It made them a perfect opening act for Conor Oberst’s tour, where they also offered backing vocals for his sets. Stay Gold was recorded in Omaha and produced by Oberst’s former Bright Eyes band mate Mike Mogis. He’s broadened the band’s sound, bringing in a thirteen-piece orchestra. Keeping the ladies’ folk base intact, Mogis combines autoharp, mandolin, and acoustic guitar with clarinet, flute, piano and organ, and a variety of strings. The production is ebullient and works as a counter-balance to the emotional intensity of the lyrics.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)