Stay Gold: First Aid Kit’s Third Album Will Tear Your Heart And Sew It Back Up Again
Oh Sweden, how we love the talent you bring us!
When it comes to awesome music, Sweden, a strange little country of only about 9 million people, continuously punches above its weight. With recent exports like Lykke Li and Tove Lo, it seems that soon we’ll actually have to learn how to pronounce these strange-to-North-American-ear names (to quote an old over-zealous Swedish teacher of mine, “to pronounce the ‘y’ sound properly, you must place your index finger below your nose and roll your upper lip over it, then try to make an ‘oo’ sound”).
In their third album Stay Gold, released in June, Swedish indie-folk duo First Aid Kit make their homeland proud, while simultaneously shirking its culture in favor of the nostalgic twang of classic country Americana. The band is composed of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, whose song lyrics- powerful, serene, and evocative all at once- make them seem wise beyond their youth. In fact, the sisters never completed high school (schooling is elective in Sweden after year 9), opting instead to work on their songwriting and touring Scandinavia. They garnered international attention when the band Fleet Foxes, one of the duo’s major musical influences, posted a cover of their song “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” recorded by First Aid Kit to their website.
Some history on First Aid Kit
In the intervening years, First Aid Kit have performed and collaborated with Jack White and Conor Oberst, and have played on Conan and the Late Show with David Letterman. And now, they’re bringing their Swedish brand of gritty folksy Americana back to North America in a big way; they began touring in May 2014, with most of their shows sold out by March. They’re currently touring Europe, but they’ll be back in the US in October, starting their tour in New York on October 24th, cycling clockwise through the country and playing their last concert in Chicago on November 22nd. (Click here for more information about tour dates and locations)
Johanna and Klara’s third album, Stay Gold, presents First Aid Kit’s movement into a more mature and developed sound. The album features a good variety of songs which will make you laugh, wonder, yearn, and maybe even cry a little. Stay Gold is a thoughtful album which somehow dances on the border of depression, hope, jadedness, and optimism; reflecting the rawness of emotions that you experience through a relationship, or, really, any new and somewhat frightening endeavor.
The album’s first song , “My Silver Lining” is pure Americana, wistful and filled with soul and featuring a catchy chorus. It evokes the wavering phase near the end of a relationship. “Master Pretender” confirms this suspicion. The duo reminds us that pretending and actually feeling a certain way are not the same thing (this is not as obvious as you’d think). Things go awry in “Stay Gold”, the title track of the album. The song invokes the words of Robert Frost in “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, a rather depressing little poem about the transient nature of happiness and goodness. The song will proceed to break your heart with the verse “what if to love and be loved is not enough.” Good question, First Aid Kit. Good question.
The next three songs, “Cedar Lane”, “Shattered and Hollow”, and “The Bell” dip further into depression and a profound sense of loss and betrayal. Then, the duo becomes a bit more playful (but still decidedly sad) with “Waitress Song”–my favourite song of the album. Dear first Aid Kit, I also wish “I could move to a small town and become a waitress, say my name was Stacey and I was figuring things out.” Maybe one day…
The last three songs of the album show the women ultimately moving on and meditating on the difficulties of a relationship and some of their own (and also our) idiosyncrasies. “Heaven Knows” is upbeat and rowdy with bold, biting, and sarcastic lyrics like “you’ve spent a year staring into a mirror” and “you’ve paid so much attention to what you’re not, you have no idea who you are.”
First Aid Kit then abruptly turn down the volume for the last song “A Long Time Ago,” which sums up and concludes the relationship/album. With the lines “I guess we’re both to blame…I was never the one for you…now I know,” we see acceptance and forgiveness.