It appears that 2018 will mark a sort of rebirth year for First Aid Kit. After scoring glowing reviews for their last two LPs (2012's The Lion's Roar and 2014's Stay Gold) the Swedish duo have moved on from longtime producer Mike Mogis to work with Tucker Martine (the Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse), giving their brand of shimmering alt-country a more raw and live feel.
Despite the new sonic scope of their latest LP, Ruins stands as the most intimate and introspective album to date for the Söderberg sisters. Largely written about guitarist and co-vocalist Klara Söderberg's recent breakup, the ten-track LP treats heartache with a rather sunny disposition, wonderfully established by the Bakersfield Sound veneer of "It's a Shame," the piano-drenched Muscle Shoals tribute "Postcard" and the gang vocal outro of the potent "Hem of Her Dress."
Not only do Klara and Johanna adroitly utilize a wealth of instrumentation on the album — "Fireworks" benefits wonderfully from sweeping hits of strings and "Distant Star" features an organ sound that propels the song into harmonic bliss — but they also bring a terrific backing band into the mix (featuring R.E.M's Peter Buck, Wilco's Glenn Kotche and Midlake's McKenzie Smith) helping them experiment with a variety of writing styles and modes, while mixing ambient sounds into Martine's punchy production sound.
Lyrically and sonically, Ruins helps First Aid Kit gives listeners a mature, realized and often heartbreaking version of this young band's oeuvre. (Columbia)