Best Albums of 2014: #17 First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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Who would’ve thought that a Swedish duo could make an album so mindful of classic folk and Americana? This album was hard to not get wrapped into upon hearing the first single and opening track,”My Silver Lining.” Stay Gold accomplished the feat of falling somewhere in the middle of a Venn diagram consisting of pop, indie, folk and country. This being their major label debut (Columbia), it was really marketed across all colors of the musical palette, thus exposing the sisters to a wide audience. And I guess I respect that it’s a good pop record more than anything. To take a sound like “Swedish-folk” (?!) and make it appeal across so many platforms is kinda mind-blowing, but they deserve the acclaim and success.

Their harmonies are tight and not tracked out. Essentially, the way you hear their voices on the record is how it was recorded. They didn’t take turns in the studio and then mix the vocals in separately, they’re just naturally this fluid when signing together. Being on Columbia this time around, allowed them to experiment and make their song arrangements more extravagant than they’ve been in the past. Like the flute in “The Bell,” it’s a gorgeous sound and a positive example of how latching onto a bigger label actually gave them freedom to experiment with more instruments.

First Aid Kit evoke shades of American greats like Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton all over Stay Gold. It’s a tasteful homage to the music they grew up listening to and even more impressive when you consider that Johanna Söderberg is 24 and Klara is only 21. I love the melancholy of “Cedar Lane.” It makes me feel like I missed on a period of American music in my younger years and respect it more now because of it’s effect on First Aid Kit and their eventual output.

“Fleeting One” has lovely guitar strums and a permeant deep cymbal gong. They sing in unison over a piano and punctuate the chorus with:

My life is a fleeting one
My work is just a web I’ve spun
Oh, my life is a setting sun

It’s the essence of Americana. The poetic description of your working life with uncanny country vibes. Ultimately, this isn’t the type of music I would normally listen to, but I couldn’t put it down this year and for that, I loved it.

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