June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized
Release Date: June 10th, 2014
By Zachary Kaczmarek
First Aid Kit’s style of folk-pop –which may very well be one of the most fresh perspective’s the genre has had to offer in the last decade – masterfully flirts with the traditional twang-laden sounds of the 70s and the tight structured melodies of contemporary folk. With only three full length albums and one EP under their belt – Stay Gold being the third – the Söderberg twins, Johanna and Klara, already feel like mainstays in folk, constructing melancholic songs that are equally uplifting as they are heartbreaking, all while laying down greatly impassioned acoustic chord progressions and classic sounding harmonized vocals. Stay Gold builds upon First Aid Kit’s last album, The Lion’s Roar, and its successes – vivid storytelling, an energetic mix of instruments, and beautifully harmonized choruses.
Emotionally, First Aid Kit maintain their conflicted view of the world by neatly juxtaposing life’s joys with its treacherous roads and deep-seated fears of fading and becoming a shell of what once was. The title track addresses these concerns with an ominous string section looming overhead and powerful chorus lines that slice right through the heart – “What if a hard work ends in despair?/What if the road won’t take me there?/Oh, I wish for once, we could stay gold.” Throughout the record the Söderbergs consistently hit the mark by unabashedly wearing their hearts on their sleeves and wrapping their best compositions around the raw moments and revelations. “Shattered and Hollow” makes a similar imprint in large part due to humble admissions – “I am in love and I am lost/But I’d rather be broken than empty” – the gentle pitter patter of snare drums, and a swiftly finger-picked guitar melody.
The nucleus of Stay Gold however, is not when First Aid Kit is at their lowest but rather when they’re triumphantly embracing their disposition. “My Silver Lining” pairs unyielding lyrics – “These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free/Be it for reason, be it for love/I won’t take the easy road” – with a fascinating interaction between Klara Söderberg’s guitar fills and the piercing downward-spiraling string section in the background, cementing it as one of their most endearing songs to date. Aside from being the marquee track on the album, it also shows how far the sister duo has progressed, stacking walls of harmonious sound and enough hooks to fill multiple songs, which is a far cry from simplified guitar and keyboard driven staples in their catalog like “Ghost Town” or “Tangerine”.
Softer confessionals like “Cedar Lane” serve as a reminder that before First Aid Kit stepped into this new realm folk that is littered with alluring pop hooks and dramatic arrangements they were a traditional folk duo capable of evoking tears with nothing the bare minimum. Whichever gear they choose to manipulate the heart, Johanna and Klara Söderberg do so with precision and grace, bridging the gap between the classic folk and the complex pop-infused songs that have elevated their status as songwriters. While Stay Gold may not be sexy, unpredictable, or fringe, its consistency in an age where even the most veteran acts can put out a dud ends up being the saving grace.
Essential Tracks: “My Silver Lining”, “Stay Gold”, “Waitress Song”, “Fleeting One”