First Aid Kit – Ruins
First Aid Kit are the sort of band that Donald Trump would like to see migrating to the US. The Söderberg sisters are from Sweden, which is quite close to Norway. They already sing in an American accent and they deliver the sort of advert-friendly music that wouldn’t be out of place during Fox & Friends. In fact, when ‘My Silver Lining’ comes on the airwaves, it’s difficult to think of anything but a Renault Kadjar. Or is it a Volvo XC60? Whatever. Anyway, First Aid Kit’s previous album Stay Gold was produced by the former boy genius and now just genius, Conor Oberst. This time they’re produced by Tucker Martine. Or Mr Laura Veirs as he’s known on this site. He’s one of the best producers in the business. As you would expect, the sound is beautifully crisp, but the style is slightly more genteel. You’d think that a song called ‘My Wild Sweet Love’ would jump out of the speakers and say Take Me Now! Instead, it sort of peers around the corner slightly coyly and hopes that you’ll notice. But this is still the first-best album of 2018 and it’s sure to remain in the memory ’til the year’s end. There are some wonderful moments. The tempo change at 3:32 of ‘Rebel Heart’, the point when Johanna takes over the vocals from Klara on ‘Fireworks’, the joyful ending of ‘Hem Of Her Dress’. First Aid Kit are the sort of band that Donald Trump would like if he had any sense. He doesn’t. Which allows the rest of us to sit back and enjoy the sumptuous music of the Söderberg sisters.
A lot of people born in mid-1970s have been tweeting about the sad death of Dolores O’Riordan. The Cranberries had a profound effect on a certain cohort. If your DOB meant that your formative musical and cultural years were the early 1990s, then the chances are that songs like ‘Dreams’, ‘Linger’, ‘Zombie’, and ‘Salvation’ were really important to you. Really important. But The Cranberries were big enough for today’s news to come as a shock more widely. Listening back to their songs, I really miss that early 1990s guitar sound. And while it might not be my cohort, I’ll miss Dolores O’Riordan too.
This is a time of looking forward. To the familiar artists that will return. To the new artists that will be discovered. This year, like any other, comes with a wish list. Some albums will never materialise. Others will slightly disappoint. A few will remain life-long friends. Fingers crossed for the latter. In no particular order, apart from alphabetical, my 2018 wish list includes new releases by Alela Diane, Anäis Mitchell, Bill Callahan, Caitlin Harnett, Cat Power, East River Pipe, Field Report, First Aid Kit, Jacob Golden, Jenny Lewis, Jessica Pratt, Jim White, Jonathan Wilson, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Pearl Charles, Phosphorescent, Pinegrove, Richard Edwards, The Delines, Vetiver, Wooden Shjips, Wye Oak and the artist formerly known as Young Man.
And yet, there is a special place in the 2018 wish list for a new album by Kramies (pronunciation to be determined). With rumours going back at least a couple of decades, there are unconfirmed reports that an album is finally on its way and that Ireland had some part to play in it. We wait with fingers crossed, though we have learned not to hold our breath. The hard way. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful feature by Shon Cobbs and his Behind The Scenes colleagues from Denver. It features Kramies answering questions and sometimes asking them too. Plus a lot of laughing.
Blushing are an Austin TX-based four piece. Their new EP, Weak, will be out on 26 January. It’ll be available over at Bandcamp. In the meantime, the title track from the EP is ready for consumption. The sound reminds me of some of the bands whose tickets stubs can be found on the right-hand sidebar of this very blog. Bands like Lush, The Sundays, and, oh! be still my beating heart, The Telescopes. Looking forward to the EP and to more from Blushing.
Hailing from Canada, Lavender Child is Caitlin Comeau-Jarvis. Her new EP/album is entitled Reflections. It came out in early December and it’s available on Spotify. The single is called ‘Happy Illusions‘. For the most part, it’s a wonderfully serene piece with more than a little sense of musical mindfulness about it. But it has big finish that makes you ready to stand up and face the world again. Perfect for the season that’s in it.
Holy Holy have twice my made best-of-the-year list, including their fine sophomore album, Paint, which came out in February of this year. Fellow Aussies, Letters to Lions have a Holy Holy vibe about them, at least by the sounds of their new single, ‘Come Around’. It’s a wonderful, upbeat song about overcoming adversity. Uplifting.
There’s always a gap between the end-of-the-year, best-of music lists and the first releases of the new year. It’s a time to catch up on some songs that deserve to be shared. First up is Anthony Ruptak, an artist who has been featured here before. Here’s a new song. A gentle song. A classic-sounding song. And, no less for any of that, a song from the heart. It’s from an EP that’s available over at Bandcamp. ‘Vulture & Dove’ is a particular favourite.
Anthony Ruptak – I’ll Go Where You Go