First Aid Kit – ‘Ruins’ Review

Klara and Johanna Söderberg's fourth album is a folksy delight

The Söderberg sisters first came to prominence a decade ago when self-shot footage of them singing a Fleet Foxes song in a moody forest near their Swedish home went hipster-viral. Ten years down the line and the fact that they’re basically now a bigger deal than the band they covered is testament to the sturdiness of certain factors of the Myspace generation. Still only in their mid-20s, Klara and Johanna are now on their fourth album, following up the gold-selling ‘The Lion’s Roar’ (2012) and ‘Stay Gold’ (2014).

‘Ruins’ is a lush, expansive release that uses the siblings’ uncanny blood harmony to full effect, elevating their low-key folk songs into something majestic. Like The Staves, Haim and classic rockers Heart before them, something happens when these sisters sing together that defies the boundaries of mere Radio 2-friendly pop. It’s the kind of searing sound that makes your heart leap out of your chest and on the jaunty ‘It’s A Shame’ and haunting ‘Fireworks’ it sounds more powerful than ever before.

Balancing out the grandiose mood comes the gentler ‘To Live A Life’, and its acoustic, finger-picked opening and sighed lyrics about “unreachable dreams”. So far, so cabin-in-the-woods, and ‘Postcard’, with its honky-tonk piano and cooing pedal steel guitar, doesn’t do much to move the duo along from their much-discussed infatuation with the kind of vintage Americana as sung by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris and The Band.

Though while fellow woodsman Bon Iver might have transmogrified into an experimental electronica don and Justin Timberlake has pulled on a plaid shirt and done the reverse, there’s something endearing about First Aid Kit’s dedication to their sound. ‘Distant Star’ is a classic country ballad imbued with both bounce and the blues, while the album’s title track pays more tribute to Fleet Foxes with its almost medieval melody, and ‘Hem Of Her Dress’ provides a Leonard-Cohen-meets-mariachi coda.

‘Ruins’ might see the band playing it safe, but rarely are safety manuals this stunning.