After more than three years since their last album, Swedish sisters First Aid Kit have returned with another dose of dreamy folk. Ruins is the deepest look we’ve ever got at the duo, with heartbreak and disappointment prominently featured throughout the album. Individually, very few of the songs would make great singles, but as an album, it’s not a bad listen.
One of the strongest songs on Ruins is second runner ‘It’s a Shame’. According to the duo, they were frequently listening to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours at the time, and boy does it show. ‘It’s a Shame’ is a perfect balance between cheerful and melancholy. Its (something about the instruments) contradicts the sadness of its lyrics. Phrases like “the emptiness I feel/and now none of it seems real” sit jarringly against the upbeat backing, increasing their impact tenfold.
‘Hem of Her Dress’ follows in a similar vein, with heartbroken lyrics juxtaposed against a rougher, but happier, tune. The group sing-a-long at the end is particularly strong, and is a highlight of the album. While these women excel at sad folk songs, it’s nice to have a little bit of a jovial twist in some parts to break it up. With the duo playing Bluesfest this year, ‘Hem of Her Dress’ is definitely one that will go down well in a live setting.
Slower and quieter tracks like ‘Nothing Has To Be True’ and ‘Postcard’ are classic First Aid Kit songs. They’re great for showcasing the sweet folk style vocals the duo are known best for, but they’re also just a lot of what we’ve heard before. ‘Postcard’ does have a great chorus, but bar that is pretty similar to many of the non-singles from their previous albums. ‘My Wild Sweet Love’ is a good track if only for the way it builds up to its urgent chorus. It’s one of the only songs on the album that I think would make a genuinely good single. There are quieter sections that allow for the duo’s voices to be heard in isolation, but the addition of the heavier drums and strings throughout the chorus also bring their own appeal. It’s a lot stronger than the title track ‘Ruins’, but I guess ‘Ruins’ is a better album title.
Overall, Ruins is an alright album from First Aid Kit. It’s definitely not the best they’re capable of, but some strong tracks do make it worthwhile for multiple listens. I’m not sure if there’s such a phenomenon as ‘fourth album slump’ but here’s hoping these women can pull themselves out of it for their fifth album.