First Aid Kit - Ruins

by Lowri Ellcock

Ruins is First Aid Kit’s newest offering, and the fifth album to add to their collection; pretty impressive for two sisters under the age of 30. This is also their newest album after the 2015 Brit Awards, in which they were nominated for Best International Group. Taking influence from the likes of Paul Simon, Emmy-Lou Harris and Dolly Parton the band have rather larger shoes to fill, but confidently navigate the country-folk scene. First Aid Kit are a pretty formidable force to the reckoned with and their career has gone from strength to strength. Having spent many an evening over the last year perusing YouTube for the band covering songs by the aforementioned artists I feel quite well acquainted with the sisters now (check out their version of America to hear them really perform, or their cover of Chiquitita). This latest album follows their tradition of easy-listening 70s-inspired folky music and does so with ease. My only real reservation with this album is that, whilst it does undeniably show a certain maturity in the band’s sound, it is ultimately more of the same. Each track wouldn’t sound far out of place on at-least the previous two albums from the sisters, admittedly they would have been the best on the album but nonetheless the point stands. The band haven’t quite progressed as much as one might hope.

Something I wish First Aid Kit had incorporated into this album is the palpable anger of their 2017 single, You Are The Problem Here. The single was released to celebrate International Women’s Day and is vicious and vengeful in addressing rape culture head on. The angsty guitar, punchy lyrics and direct chorus showed another side to the band. I would personally have loved to see some of this energy brought to the new album, the distinction between the two ‘versions’ of the band seems to be years apart, rather than a few months.

The first single from the album was It’s A Shame, the second track on the album, which was released late last year. In my humble opinion this is First Aid Kit at their finest. The way the instruments build throughout the song and the perfect harmonies of the sisters voices is exactly what I’m looking for in a folk song. Similarly, lead-single and title track Ruins is a classic First Aid Kit track, and a beautiful one at that. Fireworks and Postcard are both nice tracks standing in the first half of the album, each has a folky retro sound that First Aid Kit have truly mastered at this point.  I also really like the slightly unusual vocals on Hem of Her Dress, an emotive, moving song with simple, striking lyrics such as “I remember spring, I remember everything”. The track is littered with classic country imagery such as the hillside, whiskey and lost love. This is a song that is quintessentially folk and one which builds into a triumphant final minute as the vocals build and the trumpet comes in. The final and closing track on the album, Nothing Has To Be True, is similarly emotional. A poignant and gentle end to the album but lacking the punchyness we know the band are capable of and I hope to see in their next release.