The last we heard from Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit was via 2018’s Ruins, a heartbroken, devastatingly beautiful meditation on the process of moving on. On Friday, November 4th, sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg will return with Palomino, a fittingly optimistic-sounding response to the misery of its predecessor.
“We’ve been making music for 15 years, and we love our folky, strummy guitars and pedal steel, but we thought it was fun to try something else,” Johanna tells Consequence over Zoom. “[It was] mostly for ourselves. That’s why we gravitated towards these synths and kind of a slicker sound.”
The first singles from the project immediately signaled this tonal shift. The anthemic “Out of My Head” sounded more akin to Fleetwood Mac or ‘80s power ballads than it did to their usual folk touchstones like Gram Parsons or Leonard Cohen. “Angel” might as well have been a lost track from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, and “A Feeling That Never Came” taps into the same simplistic, uplifted melancholy that artists like Bill Callahan do so well.
Even the cover art marked the newfound positivity. Where Ruins depicts Johanna and Klara in moody, straight-forward black and white, Palomino is bright, colorful, and full of life. In fact, just about everything relating to the record is seemingly as happy and carefree as the duo has ever been – except for the lyrics, that is.
“It’s a little deceiving, I’d say, because a lot of the lyrics are still pretty dark. But it sounds a lot happier,” Klara says of the record. “We just wanted this whole recording process and everything to be positive, and trying to write happier songs. Although, they’re pretty sad still. If you actually really read the lyrics they’re deceiving in that way,” Johanna adds.
As the saying goes, you can take First Aid Kit out of downtrodden folk, but you can’t take the downtrodden folk out of First Aid Kit… or something like that. Even as they embrace the sonics of ‘70s and ‘80s pop, the stories lying underneath tell tales of failed love, depressive feelings, and holding on too tightly to the past.