The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

First Aid Kit
Stay Gold Jack Taylor , June 10th, 2014 10:13

When David Cameron proclaimed admiration for the musings of Kurt Vile and the Laurel Canyon cool of First Aid Kit, it felt like an echoing of even the most absurd spin scenarios portrayed on The Thick Of It. The PM's blasé sense of self-awareness when it comes to remarking upon his feigned interest in the arts has been well-documented, and as a result, the phrase "Etonian Smiths fan" has now seemingly become part of the lexicon of the disenfranchised who feel short changed within an often "bizarro world" of societal hierarchy.

Despite the surrounding cynicism regarding this "guilty by association" culture, it would appear that even the most discerning music fan cannot deny themselves the irresistible clutches of Swedish folk duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg. While the title of their latest effort Stay Gold hints at an idealistic vision of self-preservation, you could be forgiven for thinking that this sentiment was added only to augment their cherub-like demeanour. Upon further examination, the dense existential themes explored throughout the album quickly dispel any pre-conceived notions of superficial imagery, replacing them with a deep sense of poetic intimacy inspired by the works of Robert Frost.

Produced by long time Bright Eyes collaborator Mike Mogis, the soundscapes that populate the record instil an organic sense of progression from previous record The Lion's Roar. Opening track 'My Silver Lining' dictates the tone of the record early on, with its mournful Morricone strings and vocal harmonies embracing a carefree nonchalance, enforced by the lyrics, "I try to keep on keepin on". 'Master Pretender' merrily rolls along in an almost deliberate MOR fashion, tactfully allowing for more breathing space to convey the subtle ambience of its acoustic arrangement.

Recalling the more tender moments amongst First Aid Kit's back catalogue, title track 'Stay Gold' salivates through the familiarity of the likes of 'Emmy Lou', what with its soaring choruses and mid-tempo stomp, its ponderous rhetoric ("what if to love and be loved is not enough, what if I fall and can't bare to get up") affirming one's desire to come to terms with their own identity. "No gold can stay" is a maxim here that transcends the pithy slogans that dominate the most clichéd of choruses, instead it emanates a mantra that reflects on the temporary and transient nature of our own mortality. Tracks such as 'Cedar Lane' and 'The Bell', on the other hand, both come in the welcome respite of a wistful waltz, neither of which would seem out of place on Bob Dylan's Desire album; plaintive strings drifting carefully in and out, while the latter showcases a dainty flirtation with woodwind instrumentation.

As the album comes to a close with reflective ballad 'A Long Time Ago', it becomes apparent that Stay Gold isn't much of a departure from their previous outings. It is however, more consistent and ambitious – both thematically and sonically – than The Lion's Roar, allowing First Aid Kit to gather a well-deserved period of buoyant momentum, flourishing beyond an element of pastiche.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.