First Aid Kit: Ruins

The album is a penetrating exploration of self-aware millennial restlessness.

First Aid Kit
Ruins
(Columbia)
3.5 out of 5 stars

First Aid Kit made its major label breakthrough in 2014 with Stay Gold, the folk duo’s opus that found Klara and Johanna Soderberg experimenting with an expanded palette of sounds and styles — full orchestras, hints of dance beats, massive sing-along choruses — after years of dedicating themselves to woodsy country-folk traditionalism.

Three years later, the group’s fourth album is both a return to the plaintive folk-pop the band crystallized on 2012’s The Lion’s Roar as well as a continuation of the lush production they’ve recently embraced. Songs like “Postcard” and “To Live A Life” are some of the most unadulterated bursts of country roots the group has ever put on record, whereas songs like “Fireworks” and “My Wild Sweet Love,” full of anthemic sing-alongs and expansive sonic palettes, are destined to broaden the group’s appeal even further.

Tasteful horn sections and lush string sections appear throughout the record, which is once again defined by the sisters’ note-perfect vocal harmonies. First Aid Kit’s latest may be a slightly more conservative gesture than their last record, but it synthesizes their many musical strains more fully than ever before.

On Ruins, the Soderbergs fully excavate some of their most tried-and-true subject matter: the travails of touring, the search for meaning and sustenance as twenty-something adults, the constant, nagging presence of lost time and faded memories. The album is a penetrating exploration of self-aware millennial restlessness and ambition: what does it mean to want something more out of life? How does one search for more when they’re haunted by early-onset nostalgia by the time they turn twenty-five? Most often, the Soderbergs argue, the best way to cope is to sing the blues in harmony, to try as best as they can, as they put it, to “try to ignore how sad it all feels.”

Revisit our 2014 session with First Aid Kit here.