First Aid Kit
Stay Gold


3.8
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
June 10th, 2014 | 24 replies


Release Date: 06/10/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Nature's first green is gold.

Americana music by way of Sweden, sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg have never had much trouble integrating deep into the rutted trails and dusty backwoods of their adopted home. Stay Gold is their third album in four years, the follow-up to 2012’s gorgeously harmonized, lushly plotted breakout effort The Lion’s Roar, and, like that record and 2010’s The Big Black & The Blue, expands upon the sisters’ preternatural melodic gifts and seamless vocal interplay with an ease that is almost chilling in how imperceptibly smooth it is. It is the sound of a relatively young outfit ensconced in the comfort that comes with being veterans; the Soderbergs’ voices evoking Tennessee or the spindly roads of the Hollywood hills more than the great white north. Credit to producer Mike Mogis for allowing the sisters’ vocals to coat a burnished Americana tone and woodsy, vibrant instrumentals that highlight what has always been a timeless sound, from Mitchell and Ronstadt to Lewis and Case. It’s a record confident in its own making, even more so when it turns its focus inward. A song like “Master Pretender,” with its bluntly sobering realization that “I always thought that you’d be here / but shit gets fucked up, people just disappear,” or the hollow, wishful fantasy at the center of “Waitress Song” are songs that feel lived in, bolstered by the whirlwind lifestyle foisted on these women in the course of a few short years.

First Aid Kit could always sing like this, those voices arcing through pain and love and regret and everything in between with startling accuracy, but there was always a disconnect between the voice and the experience. The Lion’s Roar's “Emmylou,” still perhaps their best song to date, was a heartrending love letter, but it remained a simulacrum, a summoning of historical ghosts to fulfill feelings of the present. Not so here. Stay Gold has earned the pain that flits through so many of these beautiful, painstakingly assembled songs. The songs are more mature, Klara and Johanna more willing to match the depth Mogis provides with equal dashes of sadness and optimism. At times, the major label budget and Mogis’ willingness to go all out with production flourishes dampens the intimacy a bit – this is Laurel Canyon in the late '60s in bright, overly saturated color, replete with pastoral flutes on “The Bell” and an un-ironic “keep on keepin’ on” motif on leadoff track “My Silver Lining.” When First Aid Kit are on, the kitsch is part of the appeal. When the group loses the emotional pulses that flow through their music, as on the overly dramatic “Shattered & Hollow” or rote filler like “Heaven Knows,” the sugar can lead to a headache.

Yet those pulses are bloody red and thick, easy to latch on to and impossible to ignore when they hit. The true beauty of Stay Gold may be too easily lost in its impeccable soundscapes and Mogis’ facile layering of eras on top of eras, but when those harmonies burst through, and the self-doubt or defiant love Johanna or Klara can bring so effectively, so stunningly, is brought to full bore – this is what I listen to music for. “Cedar Lane” can stack all the instruments it wants into a lilting, pedal-steel-inflected symbiosis of past and present folk tropes, but it’s when the sisters sing, as an undivided whole, “Time moved so swiftly all those days / I still remember how you used to say/ ‘Something good will come out of this’” that the song merits its devastating impact, the lie revealed in the next stanza: “my world’s an empty map where nothing remains / the place we belong is quietly gone / while we were making plans, it drifted away.” Stay Gold has an emotional heft and a vulnerability that has come to characterize First Aid Kit’s best work, the inevitability of the present and the graying past embodied in flawless voices that belie the hurt and yearning behind them. It’s sometimes easy to overlook the forest for Mogis’ carefully manicured trees, but the Soderbergs always draw you back out.

For all the fresh scars experience and maturity have brought them, First Aid Kit remain resolute. “Cedar Lane” is a lesson, not just a forlorn recollection; at the end of it, Johanna and Klara remain more secure in the other than ever. “How could I break away from you,” they sing, transforming a tragedy into a celebration. It’s as fine a summary of Stay Gold as anything.




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user ratings (44)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2014


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

all of the harmonies

Digging: Tennis - Ritual In Repeat

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2014


31174 Comments


Really enjoyed this

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

tommygun
June 10th 2014


24950 Comments


need

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

InfamousGrouse
June 10th 2014


3503 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

didn't realise this existed, cool

Digging: Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2014


3450 Comments


Related to a certain Sputnik-based Soderberg or nah

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2014


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

dk anyone named soderberg here : ( . kiran comes the closest

zaruyache
June 10th 2014


6489 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really liked this album.

Digging: Alpha Male Tea Party - Droids

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 10th 2014


7338 Comments


Another great album. I think I slightly preferred The Lion's Roar overall, but as of now I'm happy to call My Silver Lining and Cedar Lane their two finest songs to date.

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2014


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

totally agree, although my two favorites are cedar lane and master pretender

Thanntos
June 10th 2014


320 Comments


Really liking the album but definitely not feeling it's as strong as The Lions Roar.
And agreed that My Silver Lining and Cedar Lane are strong as hell.

Waior
June 11th 2014


11451 Comments


woo

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2014


28527 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

first^

Digging: Chris Brown - X

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2014


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

he lives!

barcafan21
June 11th 2014


1914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is really good

Cygnatti
June 11th 2014


21352 Comments


dat reference tho

Digging: Jon Hopkins - Immunity

tommygun
June 11th 2014


24950 Comments


alright got this on deck after my hippy sister demanded i pirate for her

gon listen hard tonight

klap
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2014


10433 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

get it sis

barcafan21
June 12th 2014


1914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cedar lane makes me want to cry and idk why

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 14th 2014


16026 Comments


I need to listen to this again...my first impression was that it was decent but not impressive in any way

Digging: Yellowcard - Lift a Sail

HeavyMetalSnail
June 15th 2014


58 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My favorite tracks off of this one have to be Cedar Lane and probably The Bell.

These gals can really sing.



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