Album review: First Aid Kit - Ruins
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First Aid Kit’s follow-up to the widely successful Stay Gold sees the duo push out of their musical comfort zones whilst retaining the character that gave them such broad appeal in the first place. Ruins is reflective in tone, brooding over things past yet avoiding the rambling such evaluation could potentially tend to by sticking to the craft of the well-rounded three-minute track they know so well. Attention is sustained throughout the album by kicking off with several strong singles, winning the listener with already-heard songs; the middle of the record is quieter and less immediately exciting, but the closing couplet of ‘Hem of Her Dress’ and ‘Nothing Has to be True’ rekindles interest by introducing some novel sounds, which hint at an exciting future musical direction. ‘Rebel Heart’, the opening track starts sparsely with a fraught keyboard motif accompanied by plodding bass that is somewhat reminiscent of Depeche Mode. It then builds, becoming ever more dynamic as the drums begin to open up and the instrumentation becomes fuller. Lyrically, the song meditates on a careless epithet bestowed on the narrator, which comes back to haunt her now that the relationship is over – she is supposed to feel unrepentant, but her subconscious regrets. The kick around three minutes in gives way to glorious coda in which the full extent of the duo’s new sound is demonstrated with layered brass and strings. Track two, 'It's A Shame', is something of a First Aid Kit staple – a song fans will expect and welcome, but it too shows artistic development, if in a subtler form. Bright shimmering organs harken back to hazy mirage of their previous record; here, however, they are backed by textural grounding of acoustic strumming. The vocal harmonies for which the sisters are so well-known are present too, but this time they are not so artificially pristine – the recording feels more real.
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