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Album of the month: First Aid Kit's Stay Gold

Published: 10 Jun 2014 08:43 GMT+02:00

First Aid Kit
Stay Gold
(Columbia) ****
 
Since their cover version of Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song became a YouTube hit back in 2008, Johanna and Klara Söderberg’s careers have progressed rather smartly. As well as releasing their debut single through the Knife's Rabid Records label, they have made Patti Smith weep (with joy, I might add) with their rendition of her Dancing Barefoot, been courted by Jack White, who invited them to appear on two tracks for his Third Man Records' Blue Series, and finally signed to major label Columbia for their third album.
 
Stay Gold, a title inspired by Robert Frost’s 1923 poem Nothing Gold Can Stay, which is about the impermanence in nature, is a further refinement of their folksy take on classic Americana. If anything the girls’ glorious voices are higher in the mix and the melodies stronger than on The Lion’s Roar, which sometimes suffered from paper-thin tunes. In this sphere, at least, the major label influence is positive rather than pernicious.
 
And the songs are strong. Right from the start the windswept, propulsive My Silver Lining sets the tone - plangent guitars, urgent rhythms, elegant string arrangements, gorgeous harmonies and literate, downbeat lyrics: “I don’t know if I am scared of dying, but I am scared of living too fast, too slow.” 
 
The Söderberg sisters rarely stray into laugh-a-minute territory - these are songs of loss, regret and anxiety. The title track, for example, sees them already pining for the current moment, knowing that success and happiness are usually fleeting: "Oh, I wish for once we could stay gold.” But this is not depressive, moribund music. The sisters’ youth and vitality breathe new life into the dusty sounds, their energy forging tragedy, heartbreak and regret into new, compelling shapes. 
 
Robyn. Photo: TT
Photo: Chris Pizzello/TT
 
Röyksopp & Robyn 
Do It Again 
(Dog Triumph/Wall Of Sound)
****
Given Röyksopp’s reputation for chilly electronica, this collaboration with the queen of melodramatic electro pop, Robyn, could hardly seem to be a better fit. The Norwegian duo gain a little much-needed warmth and the Swede’s tears-on-the-dancefloor emotionalism is offered a little icy detachment. The good news is that it works, perfectly. The bad news is that there are only five tracks here, although the sprawling nature of three of them means this EP clocks in at an album length 35 minutes. The title track is the obvious pick, a gloriously sexy, messed-up electronic anthem to excess and heartbreak but the ten minutes of the stately, compelling Monument pass in a flash and Every Little Thing is melancholic slow-pop perfection. 
 
Also out this month:
 
Kent
Tigerdrottningen
(Universal) ****
 
Kent’s best album for a decade sees them blend pop nous with indie-rock dynamics. A terrific record.
 
Gig of the month:
 
Summerburst, Fri, June 13.
Gärdet
102 52 Stockholm
 
This festival is headlined by David Guetta and Calvin Harris but peppered among the support acts are the splendid Rebecca & Fiona and the mad-as-a-lorry Elliphant.
 
Paul Connolly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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