Of late, Scandinavian music has tended to err on the more electricky, the more poppy side of music, from the lofty royals like Robyn and Röyksopp and The Knife, to newcomers like Naomi Pilgrim, DNKL and Zhala. While there’s a veritable treasure trove of gorgeous sounds emanating from our Norse neighbours, there’s almost nothing that sounds like Sweden’s First Aid Kit, at least reaching the gradually purpling shores of good ol’ Blighty.
Their last LP, The Lion’s Roar, was praised heavily for its intense intimacy and textural gravitas. For the follow-up, entitled Stay Gold, First Aid Kit looked further inwards, and are dealing with introspection via different methods. They’ve gone immeasurably bigger, just like Slow Club, using orchestras and rock dynamics to wild effects and, as such, it’s a record that’s built for stadiums and festival stages, as opposed to tiny basement clubs or frolics in the park. Not that it wouldn’t work in those locales, but there’s a facet of Stay Gold that’s just better suited to being chanted at the tops of lungs rather than whispered between hushed gasps.
They brandish distinctly American sounds: slide guitar, country-western breakdowns, fiddles, banjos. They have a tendency to belt, and wear their hearts on sleeves; though they often use reflection in their lyrics, they use power to slather tracks with emotion: “I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon/having no idea who or what or where I am,” the twosome croon on opener My Silver Lining. On Master Pretender, which could be a Caitlin Rose number, First Aid Kit entwine harmonies, clarinets and a galloping beat to create a doozy of a track, ruminating on love and change, while using shotgun metaphors like a true Texan.
The duo are adept are crafting excitement and energy and pace in their folk music. Heaven Knows rattles along, with gutsy yells and jaunty strums, for example. Even on Shattered & Hollow, comparatively a ballad, there’s a purring-motor rhythm created by soft percussion and docile fingerpicking. It might be more morose than much of Stay Gold, with lovestruck coos splattered everywhere, but the track is still a well of anthemic moments in the same way as Lissie carved with her latest effort.
With their new-found, beefed-up timbres, you can be sure that they’ll put on one helluva show this summer as they skip around various festivals. Stuffed with melodies to sing along to, beats to boogie at and choruses to go wild in, First Aid Kit have made an album for communal gatherings. As well as that side of the LP, there’s also a summery streak, probably propagated by the Americana/country-western vibes that are so prevalent; the style of music instantly conjures visions of golden wheat fields, whiskey-soaked sunbeams and the muggy haze of dusk. With its innate sun-necked nature and social atmosphere, despite its throbbing introspection, Stay Gold is perfectly poised to knock you for six this summer. Don a poncho, grab a cider and get prepped.