Music Critic Georgia Brooks reviews First Aid Kit’s latest album, praising its range of influences, energy and consistency
Swedish sisters and folk duo First Aid Kit return with their fifth studio album, Palomino, and it does not disappoint. Written over the course of lockdown, the album maintains their distinctive and incredibly beautiful harmonies, but is noticeably more upbeat than 2018’s Ruins, which was written in the wake of a breakup and contains a collection of stunning if heart-breaking tracks. Palomino to me recalls the more positive energy of earlier songs from albums such as The Lion’s Roar, and is seemingly more forward looking, particularly in tracks such as ‘The Last One,’ and the titular track ‘Palomino.’
However, the lyrics of these songs are far from simplistic, and it is this depth and layering of meaning, and the often employed contradiction between the sound and lyrics of their songs, that makes First Aid Kit such a nuanced band, deserving of all the praise they receive. A song that really exemplifies this is the final single, ‘A Feeling That Never Came,’ which the band described as ‘a song about emptiness,’ pairing their distinctive soft vocals with a groovy guitar track, creating an undoubtedly upbeat sound, but a bittersweet song.
The Söderberg sisters stay true to the roots and influences that have been clear throughout their musical career: the likes of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon have always been present within their songs, and this is evident in their country folk sound. But with Palomino they seem to be introducing some more pop influences, strongly recalling Fleetwood Mac and George Harrison at times. Most explicitly they pay homage to The Rolling Stones in ‘Wild Horses II,’ a standout track that tells of a couple on a road-trip, arguing over the definitive version of the song, (The Stones or Gram Parsons) indicative of deeper differences in their relationship. With this road trip theme, First Aid Kit undoubtedly maintain their Americana vibes and free-spirited energy, something that has run throughout all of their albums, but perhaps becomes more upward looking in this one.
The album ends with ‘The winds carry you home…I’m heading out to roam.’ To me, these final lyrics capture the nuanced and contradictory nature of the album, the desire for home (and this was the first of their albums to be recorded in Sweden since their original in 2010) and yet the need for freedom and travel. Palomino is clearly a First Aid Kit album – the folk and country energy, the impressive harmonies and the soaring vocals are distinctive of all their work, but it also marks a change, something that is not especially tangible, perhaps described best as a perspective shift. Full of standout songs and a cohesive sound, First Aid Kit’s latest album is another strong addition to their superb discography.
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