The Swedish siblings behind First Aid Kit, Johanna and Klara Söderberg, deliver their carefully crafted, country-tinted folk songs in a kind of tuneful, international school drawl that belies their roots. Yet, for all that, the sound on Stay Gold, the duo’s third full-length release in four years, has an authentic ring to it. That comes from the sisters’ close-knit empathy, as they share experiences from the life they have marked out together. Production values may have been stepped up compared to its predecessors, but the album retains the same haunting charm.
You’ll hear more startling harmonies than those employed by the Söderbergs, but few with such a natural, intimate fit. Klara kicks off vocal duties on most tracks, and on opener “My Silver Lining” contemplates life on the road as a mixed blessing. She might not want to take the easy road, but the song actually pivots on the ambivalence of “these shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free.” The theme of living for now and accepting life on the road as a positive, if limiting, force courses through the album. So, when Johanna muses about moving on in “Waitress Song” (“I could move to a small town and become a waitress/ Say my name was Stacey and I was figuring things out”), she voices the downside of such escapism. With hints of Laura Marling in both structure and sentiment, this song runs deeper than its first impression.
Employing some lush orchestration helps to flesh out Stay Gold without swamping it. Further, First Aid Kit eschews the more obvious chord changes in exchange for refreshing melodies, “The Bell” and “Fleeting One” drawing parallels with the likes of Laura Veirs and Midlake, respectively. Even on the more conventional country waltz of “Cedar Lane”, instrumentation nimbly steers around the expected route. Fans of the steel guitar will appreciate its delicate cameos on the record. Band names can be deceptive, but there are no Band-Aids required here — this all sticks together just as it is.
Essential Tracks: “Fleeting One”, “The Bell”, and “Waitress Song”