It’s April 2nd so please know that I’m not foolin’ when I tell you that 2018 is 24.914974% done-zo. Yikes! It sounds positively preposterous but we are dangerously close to a quarter of the way to 2019. (I did the math, but since I always fell asleep during Advanced Time Calculations class I may need someone to double check me… it feels… hard-ish to believe).
My Pick o’ the Week this time ‘round is one of my fave albums from the first quarter of 2018. First Aid Kit’s Ruins was released in January and I keep coming back to it... because dagnabbit, if ever two voices were put on this earth to be woven around each other in a golden-hued braid of audible goodness then I submit that the sisters Söderberg should make that short list.
First Aid Kit first made a dent in my world with their 2012 single “Emmylou.” It namechecks classic singing duos Johnny/June and Emmylou/Gram and is just about all-around-perfectly-wonderful. It’s a song that’s close to my blood-pumper. Not only did it make it on my Autumn mixtape that year (a thing that I hold dangerously close to the ol’ blood pumper) but it also helped my wife and I pick out the middle name of our first daughter (another thing I hold close to my… okok you get the idea). You could say this duo's music had a big impact on me from the beginning.
Sidebar: Can we just talk for a moment about whatever in the world is up with Sweden - musically speaking? I noticed recently how many bands I dig have Swedish roots. After getting shamelessly lost in a Google wormhole, I found out that on a per capita basis Sweden is one of the world’s most successful exporters of popular music. Of course, ABBA is their shining-star-dancing-queen, but in more recent years: First Aid Kit, Jens Lekman, the Tallest Man on Earth, Lykke Li and Suburban Kids with Biblical Names have all caught my ear. It would seem that there is something in the vatten over there that’s richly hydrating their music scene.
Sidebar to the Sidebar: Q: You know what songwriting/producing duo has helped on almost all of T.Swift’s recent pop megahits? (Including one I’m partial to named “#̶c̶h̶e̶c̶k̶i̶t̶o̶u̶t̶” “Shake It Off”). A: Max Martin and Shellback. Q:You know which country these two fellas are from? A: Uh-huh...Definitely something in the vatten…
Sidebars over. *break!*
There are few things more exciting for me then getting on the proverbial elevator with a promising band near(ish) the ground floor and watching (or rather: listening) to them reach new heights with their craft. This is the satisfied feeling I get when I listen to Ruins. It’s a very clear step forward for FAK. They have always been aware of their strengths, but four albums in they have learned the best ways to fully shape and utilize all the raw songwriting talent they have going their way.
Ruins also feels much more like a complete record than their first three. It’s not merely a collection of good songs. Every song contributes to the whole on this one. It’s a soundtrack to a broken relationship but it never languishes too long in the bitterness or anger. As the title track describes, there’s a real mountaintop perspective to the looking back. It’s a survey of the damage done so that the movin’ on can happen. As a listener it’s exciting to anticipate where this forward momentum might propel them next.
So crack open a bottle of Ramlösa Mineral Water and dive into the dense, mesmerizing harmonies of Klara and Johanna Söderberg.
Here’s a few of my fave spots to listen out for:
Track 1: “Rebel Heart” - (3:09) That ridiculous 13 second vocal sustain that ushers in a new monotone groove: “Nothing matters - All is futile...”
Track 2: “It’s a Shame” - The intensity of the last full chorus with the subtle addition of handclaps. Voilà!
Track 5: “To Live a Life” - (1:55) The moment “and suddenly” hits and elevates the song.
Track 7: “Distant Star” - The ending is perfect.
Track 8: “Ruins” - Catch that cool wobbly-wavy sound behind the repeated “ruins” in the chorus. I like cool wobbly-wavy things.
Track 9: “Hem of Her Dress” - (1:08) “SO LOUD (and so discreet).” Also, how this song erupts into a rollicky drinking song by the end. Bonus Points when a complete horn section is also drinking in the bar when said eruption occurs.
Track 10: “Nothing Has to Be True” - The sentiment surrounding this closing track hits far too close to home: “You can tell yourself so many things… and nothing has to be true…”