Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit might have been forgiven if their third studio album, Stay Gold, was merely above average. Their previous record, The Lion's Roar (2012), was a transcendent collection of slow-burning folk balladry. (Show of hands those of you who still have "Emmylou" stuck in your head.) As it turns out, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are only getting better with age.This barely twenty-something duo manages to occupy a lyrical and musical space well beyond their years and place of origin.
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.
If ever there was a band that combined the older, established music business with the outlaw frontier that is the internet age, it’s First Aid Kit. First coming to global prominence thanks to a cover of a Fleet Foxes song uploaded to YouTube when they were still teenagers, the precocious Söderberg sisters had already received attention in their native Sweden thanks to songs uploaded to their MySpace page. Their key influences – a mix of the classic alt-country singers and their modern angst-ridden counterparts such as Conor Oberst – are those of a generation who have everything at their fingertips, who can flip through albums online, hear the sounds of another part of the world from their bedrooms and collate impressive record collections at the snap of a finger.
One of the first reviews I ever wrote was of First Aid Kit’s 2010 debut album The Big Black and the Blue. Back then I was struck by the then teenage Söderberg sisters’ ability to create the most stunning harmonies, noting that their vocal skills would escape singers many years their senior and being of such a quality that their vocals left “other instruments almost completely irrelevant”. Four years later their third full length album finds the sisters older, wiser, but still able to create some of the most beautifully intricate harmonies I’ve ever heard.
It's a fun game to ask someone unfamiliar with First Aid Kit where the band hails from. Tennessee is a common guess, as is Georgia, and the fact that the Söderberg sisters are from Sweden always raises eyebrows. And while this is curious information, the band Johanna and Klara have worked so hard to build is no curiosity. Instead, First Aid Kit has evolved by leaps and bounds over the course of three albums, released in a scant four years.
On their previous album The Lion’s Roar, the Söderberg sisters drew deeply from their influences. Now, they’re finding their own voices. Every song on Stay Gold is beautifully crafted to feel like a new and complete soundscape—orchestrated strings, rolling drums and airy flutes enhance the Americana guitar riffs—bringing out the vivid imagery of their lyrics.
The imagination knows no boundaries. A case in point? The duo named First Aid Kit. Though the band consists of two beautiful young sisters from Stockholm, the way the two write and sing makes it sound like they were dusty coal miner’s daughters born in a holler. You won’t hear a more American sound anywhere on the planet than the one that wafts through the sisters’ high-lonesome harmonies and fine-laced country tunes.
“We spoke of dreams that came to us when we were young/ But as the morning rose, we spoke with forked tongues,” sing Johanna and Klara Soderberg on their third album as the folk-pop duo First Aid Kit. It’s just one of many declarations of shaky faith and penetrating nostalgia that comprises Stay Gold, the Swedish sisters’ major label debut. The Soderbergs’ folkie romanticism won over hearts with their 2012 breakthrough Lion’s Roar, and their last two years of touring and unprecedented success have left them weary and wistful on their latest record.
Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have taken what, in the era of TV talent shows and Internet stars (they were once YouTube sensations themselves), has become a rare path to major-label success. Their hard work and growth within a trusting and nurturing indie label climate have helped develop and mature their sound from the enchanting folk of their debut to the polished Americana that dominates Stay Gold. Making the jump from Wichita to Columbia Records for their third full-length has given the duo the scope to dream bigger, and that's exactly what they've managed here with an assured and comprehensive collection of songs.
On their major label debut, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have finally grown into their voices. First Aid Kit’s vocal magic has been undeniable since their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” became internet-famous in 2008. Six years later, the wispy, whiney country-twang imitations and overeager, grating harmonies that marked First Aid Kit’s breakthrough second album The Lion’s Roar are gone, having finally given way to a confidence that channels both beauty and pain in songs of bold proclamations and frank confessionals.
First Lykke Li and now First Aid Kit – there’s a serious sadness affecting Sweden’s twentysomething female folk-poppers at the moment. After two records on acclaimed indie Wichita, ‘Stay Gold’ is Klara and Johanna Söderberg’s first major-label offering, but even that big old Columbia paycheque can’t bring a smile to the duo’s faces. What’s probably a nightmare for their mates on WhatsApp, however, is a blessing for fans of lush, melodic, symphonic emoting.
It’s a cheap trick to throw the “maturity” label at a folk band who started in their mid-teens, but the progress of First Aid Kit these past few years has been nothing short of remarkable. Moving onto their third album - and major label debut - the Söderberg sisters have gone far beyond the Fleet Foxes cover that went viral and sent their stock skywards. ‘Stay Gold’ isn’t crippled by maturity - there’s still the same bright-eyed wonder that defined 2012’s ‘The Lion’s Roar’.
It's six years since sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg uploaded the woodland-set Fleet Foxes cover that would go on to grant them fame. Three albums in, and their voices still chime like a Swedish Everly Brothers, but the pressures of being a 20-something success story seep from their country ballads – perhaps a product of their recent signing to a major and the intensive touring they did in their teens. Waitress Song finds them fantasising about alternative professions ("I could move to a small town and become a waitress/ Say my name was Stacy and figure things out") and they reluctantly turn their back on a love "that could have been" on A Long Time Ago.
Review Summary: Nature's first green is gold. Americana music by way of Sweden, sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg have never had much trouble integrating deep into the rutted trails and dusty backwoods of their adopted home. Stay Gold is their third album in four years, the follow-up to 2012’s gorgeously harmonized, lushly plotted breakout effort The Lion’s Roar, and, like that record and 2010’s The Big Black & The Blue, expands upon the sisters’ preternatural melodic gifts and seamless vocal interplay with an ease that is almost chilling in how imperceptibly smooth it is.
Outside of high school curricula and motivational posters, Robert Frost is not an especially popular literary influences these days. Two roads diverged in the woods and most people could give a shit. When sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg named both a song and their third album together as First Aid Kit after Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, from his Pulitzer-winning 1923 collection New Hampshire, the choice seemed to reflect their youth: The sisters signed their first record contract in 2008 when Johanna was 17 and Klara 14, both around the age when most readers have Frost thrust upon them.
From their auspicious YouTube beginnings in 2008, Swedish siblings Klara and Johanna Söderberg branded themselves First Aid Kit, attracting attention to their debut album, The Big Black and the Blue, with their cover of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by Fleet Foxes. Citing such American influences as Johnny and June Carter Cash, the Louvin Brothers, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons on their 2012 breakout album, The Lion’s Roar, First Aid Kit look to move beyond classic Americana on their major-label debut, Stay Gold. This marked divergence opens Stay Gold on “My Silver Lining”, with its Middle Eastern shuffle in which younger sister Klara proclaims, “I won’t take the easy road.
Ever since cutting their folkie teeth on a cover of the Fleet Foxes' “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have been successfully reimporting American folk-pop into the country—and like Mexican Coca-Cola, they make a credible claim to more authenticity than the domestic version. Their choices of Americana role models, including Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, and Fleetwood Mac, are impeccable, but First Aid Kit also guilelessly references a range of contemporaries, from Ryan Adams to Neko Case to Laura Marling. Stay Gold, their third album, is less intimate than their previous effort, The Lion's Roar, but, backed by a 13-piece orchestra and gifted with a rare rapport and plangent voices, employed in close, modulated harmonies, the Söderbergs find their pitched balance in the melancholy and occasional loneliness of the quotidian.
The Swedish siblings behind First Aid Kit, Johanna and Klara Söderberg, deliver their carefully crafted, country-tinted folk songs in a kind of tuneful, international school drawl that belies their roots. Yet, for all that, the sound on Stay Gold, the duo’s third full-length release in four years, has an authentic ring to it. That comes from the sisters’ close-knit empathy, as they share experiences from the life they have marked out together.
Seven years ago, when Swedish sister duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg appeared on YouTube singing a Fleet Foxes song in a forest, they seemed like an adorable one-view wonder. Instead, they've blossomed into an excellent indie-country act, like the Carter Family if they'd grown up on Lee Hazlewood's Cowboy in Sweden and Emmylou Harris. Like 2012's The Lion's Roar, Stay Gold was recorded in Omaha with Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis, whose Big Sky echo and orchestrations complement sublime drifter poetry like "Waitress Song," where the harmonies tickle God and the lyrics begin, "I could move to a small town and become a waitress/Say my name was Stacey and I was figuring things out." .
Head here to submit your own review of this album. For a band that make such markedly inoffensive music, there's actually quite a bit you need to get past about First Aid Kit; the apparently 'random' non-sequitur of a name, the ever-so-slightly grating Louisiana twang that two girls from Sweden have inexplicably picked up, and the fact that David Cameron turned up to their show in Shepherd's Bush a couple of years ago. For the undeterred, though, The Lion's Roar offered plenty in the way of reward; instrumentally lush and tightly written, it featured some of the most gorgeous harmonies I've heard on a pop record in quite some time.
First Aid Kit Stay Gold (Columbia) Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg's third LP and first for a major label carries a slightly darker, more mature perspective than 2012 breakout The Lion's Roar. Their Laurel Canyon harmonies still beguile, and Stay Gold strikes a wide, thick vein of polish and confidence. "I won't take the easy road," the sisters declare in opener "My Silver Lining," while the title track expands on the Robert Frost poem for a beautiful, if weary, meditation.
Typically, we picture long trips on the open road through small towns and stopping at nameless rest stops as something only Americans could understand. But First Aid Kit—Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg—have proven anyone can adopt the wandering lifestyle. Having already proven themselves as Americana folk superstars, their third studio effort, Stay Gold, sees them exploring the sentiments of anonymity and uncertainty that come when you’re more used to seeing the pavement than your own home.As a whole, the album’s themes teeter between longing for a different life and the difficulty of their current one on the road.
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.
Sweden is less known for its folk scene than for its place in the pure pop market, where for decades the country has produced glistening, chrome-toned singles. For obvious reasons — climate, lack of cowboys and troubadours — country and western and earnest folk rock have seldom been ingredients. This makes young sibling duo First Aid Kit unique, and the proof is spread throughout their new album, "Stay Gold." Produced in Omaha by longtime Saddle Creek Records affiliate Michael Mogis, "Stay Gold" confirms artists eager to explore a big sound.
opinion by MICHAEL WOJTAS The Söderberg sisters really do seem to mean well. True opportunists, Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers have boiled down modern folk into a bankable science of stomping, clapping and whistling. As First Aid Kid, the Söderberg’s have simply presented a more direct counterpart to the complexities of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom, artists they clearly look up to and regularly namecheck.