Ruins | First Aid Kit

7/10 foo – Country & Northern
“They’re sisters, they’re from Sweden, they were born at the height of the hippie era in the Sixties, and they’ve just finished a massive tour with The Eagles”, announces an orange man in a velour jacket at the beginning of First Aid Kit’s video clip to the utterly, utterly gorgeous “Nothing Has to be True”.
The thing is, that’s only 50% true. First Aid Kit are sisters (Klara [vocals/guitar] and Johanna Söderberg [vocals / keyboards / Autoharp / bass guitar]), and they are from Sweden (Stockholm), but as for being around in the 60s… Not even close. So is this a bad thing? Purists may cry “YES” (how could two straight-laced 90s kids possibly ‘get’ the Swingin’ Sixties?), but if you’re any kind of fan of folky Americana à la Neil Young, Mamas & Papas, Carole King, then absolutely not. It’s brilliant, because as most people would agree on these days, alllllll the music has been done and there are basically no new places to go, so why not take old formulas like this and polish them up for millennial audiences?
The soundscapes are lusher, the production values are better (thanks technology!), and the very fact that Ruins is the Söderberg sisters’ fourth studio album is testament to how popular the genre can be when done right. Songs like “Postcard”, with its country lilt and Gram Parsons piana, or the wide-eyed “Distant Star” are near flawless examples of how to inject originality into a done-to-death era.
Retro gimmicks aside, the real key to Ruins success is the sister’s vocals; both full of character and genuine empathy – kind of like a softer Janis Joplin but with the bonus of some wonderfully layered harmonies. Admittedly it would be nice to hear the raw end of that more often (check out the rousing “Hem of Her Dress” where they both seem to be releasing some demons), but really there’s very little to criticize here – Ruins is compellingly wonderful at pretty much every turn.
Dan Ashcroft
Like this? Try these:

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Martha Wainwright
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Foul-mouthed Canadian folkie grinds an axe or two.

Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball
Country siren delivers best album of her career.

Carole King Tapestry
70s folk touchstone by reclusive Manhattanite.


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