Recorded with a 13-piece orchestra, the Swedish folk duo's second album masters the art of sophisticated sadness
First Lykke Li and now First Aid Kit – there’s a serious sadness affecting Sweden’s twentysomething female folk-poppers at the moment. After two records on acclaimed indie Wichita, ‘Stay Gold’ is Klara and Johanna Söderberg’s first major-label offering, but even that big old Columbia paycheque can’t bring a smile to the duo’s faces. What’s probably a nightmare for their mates on WhatsApp, however, is a blessing for fans of lush, melodic, symphonic emoting. Instead of collapsing into a heap on the bedroom floor surrounded by snotty tissues and half-eaten bars of Dairy Milk, the siblings have carefully crafted a tender batch of songs that disarm not only with their beauty but also their honesty.
Recorded at Conor Oberst’s ARC Studios in Omaha with Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis – who also helmed 2012’s The Lion’s Roar – this time around, a 13-piece orchestra boosts the band’s sound to West End-worthy realms of drama, as on the mournful ‘A Long Time Ago’, which documents the end of a relationship with profound, string-laden misery. ‘Master Pretender’ and ‘Waitress Song’ provide the chirpiest moments of these 10 tracks, yet the former undermines its own happy-clappy close harmonies as Klara sighs: “I always thought that you’d be here/But shit gets fucked up/People just disappear”. All thrusting acoustics and frisky Fairport Convention-isms, the latter’s bounce also betrays a impenetrable melancholy, as she sings of ditching Dumpsville to become a character from a Bruce Springsteen song: “I could move to a small town and become a waitress/Say my name was Stacey/And I was figuring things out”.
At times the sisters risk being bogged down by a certain two-dimensionality, but they prove there’s more to them than a sparkling glumness with ‘My Silver Lining’, which has all the slinkiness of a 1960s spy movie soundtrack, like a horny Scott Walker prowling across Jane Birkin’s bedroom. Sorrow is rarely this sophisticated.