by Imogen Speith
First Aid Kit has been developing themselves as a boundary pushing duet since 2010. The shared songwriting duet of Klara and Johanna Söderberg emerged from YouTube after their version of Fleet Foxes songs went viral. The duet is known for their facility in penning folk and country tunes that have an old-style charm, but with today’s sentiments in the lyrics. Ruins, their fourth album, continues that twangy trajectory as the duet forges forward in their musical journey. The Söderberg sisters push further with new sounds and songwriting.
The country honky-tonk “Postcard” is a fine example of the duets old and new style of songwriting. The vocal harmonies are lovely, and the range of the melody is also impressive. The music is classic honky tonk, but the duet’s vocal blend and subject matter brings the track to current times. The song form is simple, but they still vary the sections to develop the track over time. The Söderberg sisters sing beautifully, whether together or apart. But when together, there is nothing like sibling harmonies.
“Fireworks,” on the other hand, finds the duet stretching its sound. Grounded in early rock and old soul rhythms, the vocal melody is beautiful. The range is wide, the singing is strong through the registers. The vocal harmonies are interesting and build the song to a unique climax. There is a fortitude and clarity to the sister’s harmonies and the emotion of the song comes through.
Klara and Johanna do keep their lyrics conventional for the most part. First Aid Kit has always had a fatalist streak, which adds gravity their songs. Their lyrics are stunning none the less, the combination of the music, melodies, and lyrics all fit together prodigiously.
Klara and Johanna’s voices complement each other naturally and gracefully, that it’s the magic of First Aid Kit. Each vocal line is a specifically crafted, it may be a wordless vocal line that is used as a counterpoint to the melody, or it could be the way the two harmonize together, either way, they have crafted it with care. The harmonies are always doing something intriguing, and that makes Ruins a joy to listen to and savor each style the duet presents.