Ruins starts off as an extremely promising folk album, but meanders to an indifferent conclusion.
Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit have returned with their fourth studio album Ruins, boasting a new, refined edge to the band, whilst maintaining the ubiquitous sentimental harmonies that have thus far defined them.
The sisters, Klara and Johanna Söderberg, found relative success with their 2012 album The Lion’s Roar, but only really gained extensive notice with the single ‘My Silver Lining’ from 2014’s Stay Gold, a song that is instantly recognisable amongst UK television watchers after being used for a Renault advert in 2016. Over their career, they have built up an association with charming harmonies and the occasional country twang, and this is something they remain loyal to with Ruins. An everlasting air of sentimentality breathes through the ten-track album, evoking a countenance that aligns with the record’s title. ‘Fireworks’ is the most affectionate of the songs, waltz-like and romantic the sisters’ voices glide through with ease, control, and emotional sophistication. The album is jam-packed with sorrowful and melancholy melodies, such as in the straight-up country sound of ‘Postcard’, and again in the achingly heart-wrenching vocals of ‘Hem of Her Dress’, whilst lead single ‘It’s A Shame’ shows a grittier and defiant side to the band.
Ruins is easy listening at its finest, but the latter half somewhat falls flatter than the extremely impressive start. This is not necessarily a question of the quality of the album as a whole, with it providing enough sustenance and individually impressive songs to stand up, but more a question of the ordering. The first five songs set the album up perfectly for First Aid Kit to follow through and really produce something great, but rather disappointingly the remaining songs lull in the safety of the tried and tested average folky song that has provided the band with success up to now. There isn’t exactly a bad song, but the overall reaction to Ruins is indifference when really it should be something more. Nonetheless, Ruins shows a maturity to First Aid Kit, dealing with ending relationships and heartbreak in a manner that polishes and hones their unique sound. The sisters continue to pursue their passion for a genre that isn’t all that popular, all the while benefitting the world of country and folk by providing them with a fresh new vigour of a band that is forcing its way into the sights of indie and pop scenes.
Ruins doesn’t exactly do anything dramatic or revolutionary, but then again, when it comes to country and folk music, the success of an artist relies on their ability to nuance and refine their sound rather than completely rip up the rulebook, and that’s exactly what First Aid Kit has done here.
Ruins is out now via Colombia Records