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First Aid Kit - Ruins (Album Review)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Lauren Dukoff

How much do you value authenticity in pop musicians? Does it matter that cockney anarchist wide boy Joe Strummer was a public school diplomat’s son? That one of the world’s most popular reggae bands, UB40, earned their stripes in the Working Men’s clubs of Birmingham? Or that First Aid Kit’s particular brand of Americana was honed in a Stockholm suburb?

The answer is: it shouldn’t, but it often does. This is because musical authenticity is often derived from the sincerity of emotions and the level of execution. In this regard, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg’s ‘Ruins’ is a fine record, impressively focused and occasionally with spectacular melody writing - it certainly feels authentic.

The charm of the duo’s fourth album, as was the case with their previous releases, is derived from the duality of their vocals, which are showcased best on Fireworks and Rebel Heart. The latter marking one of the album’s high points; combining the duo’s knack for writing long, rising lyrical phrases in a way that manages to recall both the Fleet Foxes and the Dø’s Olivia Merilahti.   

Elsewhere things are a little pedestrian. Postcard is a tidy shuffler that never gets out of third gear, while To Live A Life tries to simulate the small town balladry of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn without the deep, effortless understanding of Victorian English language. It feels as though the duo are trying to emulate the wrong acts, like they were listening to Bright Eyes when there was more to learn from Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Distant Star, though, with its profound musicality, does well to remind us of First Aid Kit’s superb skill set. They use vocal layering with distinction to create a swinging epic. Sibling vocal pairings can work well because there is often a unique family timbre which allows you to be a little more adventurous with intersecting melodies. Musical phrases that should clash suddenly do not.

Even with genetics on their side, ‘Ruins’ doesn’t quite amaze. Its beautiful, quixotic closer, Nothing Has To Be True, ends things on a dubious note, creating the expectation of a discussion about the American right’s fake news fascination, an expectation that is quickly quashed. It’s as if First Aid Kit want to tap into the American psyche at any cost. It feels dangerously contrived and potentially ill thought out, leaving us once again to question its authenticity.

It shouldn’t matter, but it often does.

First Aid Kit Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Sat February 24 2018 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Mon February 26 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Tue February 27 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Thu March 01 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Fri March 02 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Tue April 03 2018 - SYDNEY Enmore Theatre
Thu April 05 2018 - MELBOURNE Croxton Bandroom
Fri April 06 2018 - MELBOURNE Croxton Bandroom
Sat April 07 2018 - MELBOURNE Melbourne Recital Centre
Wed January 24 2018 - OAKLAND California - Fox Theater - Oakland (USA)
Fri January 26 2018 - PORTLAND Oregon - Roseland Theater (USA)
Sat January 27 2018 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - Vogue Theatre - Vancouver (Canada)
Sun January 28 2018 - SEATTLE Washington - Moore Theatre (USA)
Tue January 30 2018 - SAINT PAUL Minnesota - Palace Theatre - St. Paul (USA)
Thu February 01 2018 - NASHVILLE Tennessee - Ryman Auditorium (USA)
Fri February 02 2018 - CHICAGO Illinois - Riviera Theatre (Chicago) (USA)
Sat February 03 2018 - DETROIT Michigan - St. Andrews Hall (USA)
Mon February 05 2018 - TORONTO Ontario - Danforth Music Hall (Canada)
Tue February 06 2018 - MONTREAL Quebec - MTELUS (Canada)
Wed February 07 2018 - BOSTON Massachusetts - House of Blues Boston (USA)
Fri February 09 2018 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Lincoln Theatre (USA)
Sat February 10 2018 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Union Transfer (USA)
Tue February 13 2018 - NEW YORK New York - Beacon Theatre (USA)

Click here to compare & buy First Aid Kit Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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