First Aid Kit have been charming us with their perfect harmonies and earnest folk songs for years now, but something about Stay Gold feels different. Confident. Mature.
The duo that brought us ‘Emmylou’ and ‘I Met Up With the King’ have created an album that quite clearly says, “We’ve arrived”. Johanna and Klara are no longer the bright young things of The Lion’s Roar — they’re the women about to take over alt-country. Stay Gold has strength to it, with robust production from Mike Mogis and new-found assertiveness from the Söderberg sisters. They’ve even put aside some of those signature folksy elements, exchanging intimate ruminations for the lilting country stylings we first heard in ‘Emmylou’.
That strength, however, is tempered by a weariness that can only come from growing up. It’s clear that First Aid Kit have been confronted with the realities of their industry; the anthemic title track ponders, “What if my hard work ends in despair? What if the road won’t take me there?” And a line from ‘Shattered & Hollow’ seems to sum the album up best: “Now I am tired, but resolute.”
The Söderbergs certainly are resolute, and never more so than with this complex, affecting, and consistently excellent LP. In ‘Master Pretender’, they describe what it was like being wise beyond their years: “I always knew that I was young. But with a head held high and a sharp tongue, I could fool most anyone.” They’re not fooling anyone now; they’re not young prodigies anymore, but two musicians who have earned their place at the front of the pack. Stay Gold looks back on their journey through life and the music industry, and it’s clear they’ve emerged as assured, poised, and yes, wise, young women.
Words: Katie Carroll