Nov 03, 2022
By Andy Von Pip
You wouldn’t think that the lush, rugged Swedish scenery would give rise to music that seems to evoke a mythical arenaceous American landscape. But for around a decade and a half and over four albums, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have done just that as First Aid Kit, fashioning music that seems to owe more to dusty Americana-style vistas than it does to glaciers, snow, and mountain lakes.
On each album, the sister’s crystalline harmonies and huge heart-swelling choruses have gained them an army of fans, awards and critical acclaim. On their fifth album, Palomino, they strike melodic gold once more with some of their most uplifting and pop-centric songs to date. There’s still a sense of open hearts and broken hearts, of wishes and kisses being carried off on the desert wind, but perhaps what comes through on this album is a feeling of liberation, freedom, and hope. Indeed, the title track itself is a symbol of escape.
The album opens with the timeless pop rock of “Out of My Head,” written with producer Björn Yttlin and a track Fleetwood Mac would certainly have been proud of. Lead single “Angel” is as soaring and anthemic as anything they’ve previously written, mixing vulnerability with a pragmatic sense of acceptance whilst showing just how beautifully the sister’s mellifluous vocals combine.
“Wild Horses II” is more traditional Americana fare, with vivid imagery and details of down-at-heel motels replete with Bibles in the drawers, thin walls, and ghastly, dated floral linen. It centers on a couple undertaking (or perhaps “enduring”) a road trip together. While playing the car stereo, they realize that liking different versions of the titular song is the least of their problems, but leads to a recognition of the growing void between them. It also provides yet more unassailable evidence that it’s impossible for the sisters to record an album without somehow referencing Gram Parsons.
There’s plenty of nimble guitar picking, “ooh oooh oohs,” and sweeping ballads such as “Turning Onto You,” the beautiful “The Last One,” and “Nobody Knows,” as well as the more jaunty pop of “A Feeling That Never Came,” which has an air of fellow Scandie singer/songwriter Lene Marlin’s ’90s classic “Sitting Down Here.”
While Palomino represents a slight shift in First Aid Kit’s sound, its evolution, not revolution and there’s plenty to admire in terms of the Söderberg’s unerring ability to craft beautiful celestial harmonies and conjure a sense of the mystical and magical out of the ether. (www.firstaidkitband.com)
Author rating: 8/10
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