2014 has already seen some exciting returns by some of the planets biggest names. One of the most exciting from a very personal perspective has to be for the release of the third studio album by Swedish Folk Americana beauties First Aid Kit. Since they showed the world that there should be no excuse for, and no such thing as ‘second album syndrome’ when they released the instant classic ‘The Lions Roar’ back in 2012, they’ve got bigger and bigger, appearing at multiple festivals and touring all over the world. But will the ‘Stay Gold’ maintain their amazing reputation, and will it provide us with another collection of magical indie-folk masterpieces? Well I’ve had a listen and I’m going to answer that question right now for you. That’s the point of a review right?
So the album kicks off in strong fashion with the first single release, ‘My Silver Lining’. This one has been getting about for a while now, heavily promoted on Facebook and it’s been played to death on YouTube at the house of Mojo. It’s a very strong come-back track, with a cool edgy hook, and mesmerising strings throughout. It’s a slightly more contemporary sound than before, as the girls had previously seemed like Americana purists, despite being native to Sweden. But this isn’t a negative at all. They appear to come back cooler, sexier, and they’ve evolved with the times. Of course there is only a two-year gap between their last LP and their new one but in that time they appear to have only got better, and it’s very easy to say they might be inspired by the success of Haim and point out some similarities. But for me, First aid kit aren’t following anybody, they’re setting the tone, the pace, and the standard. The music video for ‘My Silver Lining’ also seems to prove the aforementioned point as well, as it really just showcases the duo being dead hipster-ish and driving around in a nice car. A lot of walking around aimlessly in forests and mansions etc as well, but that’s to be expected I think. But it’s well shot, and it’s got a very modern feel for a sound that could be considered to have been heavily inspired by retro.
We then begin to crawl deep into the unknown, with the first album track from ‘Stay Gold’ and it comes in the very upbeat and sweet ‘Master Pretender’. Now if we were talking comparisons before, then it has to be mentioned how this track has a very Laura Marling-esque feel to it. Again, that’s not a negative at all but just an acknowledgment. We all love Laura Marling right? The title track follows, and it’s a more haunting, down tempo number, also showcasing that purist folk sound they’re known for. I would certainly expect this one to be released as a single in the near future. I can also imagine this becoming a big live number as part of their stage show. I’d give an arm to see them live as well so if anybody reading this wants to hook us up with some tickets, that’d be wonderful.
The next track ‘Cedar Lane’ has been released as the second single from ‘Stay Gold’, and albeit a beautiful song, with a swinging guitar riff and those harmonies that they’ve become famous for, I’m surprised that they went for this one as the second release. I don’t really know why I’m surprised but I can see something in the other two tracks we’ve talked about that I think fir the ‘single release’ criteria a little more. But as I said, it’s still a great song, and it ticks all the boxes for what fans of First aid kit will have been expecting from a new release. The vocals are one of the most impressive points of the whole thing, and the song writing compliments their vocal style. This is exhibited perfectly on the midpoint track ‘Shattered and hollow’ and shortly after that ‘The Bell’ and ‘The Fleeting one’.
The highlight/stand out track for me is the much more up-tempo, Johnny Cash-train track inspired ‘Heaven Knows’. I found it interesting on first listen because this sits in the same position as ‘King of the world did’ on ‘The Lions Roar’ and I can see similarities in both of them. Whether this was intentional or not, who knows, It might be considered nerdy noticing something like that to be honest. But oh well, worth a mention. But as far as the song that really kicks off the most, and would get a live crowd moving at all, it’d have to be this one. Which brings us then onto the penultimate track on what is so far a very successful return.
Does track ten, ‘A Long Time Ago’ finish things off in style? Yes of course it does, it was never in doubt. A stripped back, minimalist number, with more strings, a subtle but beautiful piano accompaniment, more incredible vocals and of all of the previously mentioned tracks it’s probably the most sentimental of all of them. It’s a heartfelt, honest, and retrospective of a relationship gone sour. Is it subject matter or an actual true story? Who knows, probably none of our business, but what is our business is that as far as a third album release goes, it’s a complete success and an amazing return for one of the leading lights in modern music. Again, I repeat, if anybody, PR companies etc want to provide tickets to see them, I’d appreciate it.
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)