Despite their Swedish passports, First Aid Kit could easily be confused for a couple of cowgirl pluckers from Tennessee. Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have spent the last eight years sculpting a sound that is one-part bluegrass, one-part pop and one-part everything else. Their third studio album, the most autobiographical yet, juggles naïve sweetness with rooted sophistication.
It opens with featured single ‘My Silver Lining,’ a bluesy toe-tapper that will no doubt be the soundtrack to a thousand road trips this summer. The catchy chorus allows you to forgive the unforgivable sin of shoving too many syllables into a space where only one syllable should be. After this, the record stays strong. ‘Shattered & Hollow’ is a bruising ballad and ‘Cedar Lane’ a country waltz. Genre switches with each song, maybe each measure. The scope of the album is immense and might even be mistaken for unfocused. But these girls are unrestricted and unashamed – one of the great things about being young.
Lyrically Stay Gold is a bit heavy on metaphor, lacking the razor-sharp imagery that folk is famous for. However, the harmonies are tight enough to walk across and it’s easy to forget you are listening to two voices. Influences are too many to count – Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, Patsy Cline, Norah Jones and a least a dozen others that you would be proud to have on your IPod.
Luckily, the Americana scene has embraced the sisters whole-heartedly, and seems not to begrudge them their Scandinavian roots. After all, Gillian Welch came from Berkeley. It was masterfully produced in Omaha by Mike Magis of Bright Eyes fame, they’ve recorded with Jack White and also performed for Patti Smith and Paul Simon. Such company at this early stage makes for not only industry players but also game changers.
Stay Gold feels like a highway, a dusty and delicate landscape as vast as the American Southwest. If taste is the mother of talent, First Aid Kit have a decade of good taste to foster a creativity we may have not seen before.