First Aid Kit – Ruins

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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.

 

Part 2 of the year’s best albums. We’re counting down in reverse order.

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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The Söderberg sisters have voices made in heaven. But is everything tickety-boo in their Swedish paradise on earth? Last time, the Lion Roared. This time, it expressed more than a little self doubt. Perhaps it was the influence of that Conor Oberst chap. More of him next time.

Miranda Lambert – Platinum

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The songs were no more spontaneous than the cover photo. But the lyrics were genuinely amusing at times. And there was a greater confidence to the song-writing than before. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s artificial. It’s the CMA’s best album of the year for goodness sake. But don’t hold that against it. Too much.

The Delines – Colfax

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The Delines did not win anything at the CMAs. Late night stories of relationships gone bad long ago. Jobs that are barely worth the name. And all told against the background of a mournful guitar. This was Willy Vlautin in a different incarnation, but still at the top of his game.

Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread

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Rosanne Cash took us on a very personal journey. Memories tinged with all sorts of emotions. But the highlight was the playing, which was, unsurprisingly, top notch. And ‘A Feather’s Not A Bird’ was one of the year’s great songs.

Field Report – Marigolden

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Field Report tell serious stories. And they tell them very slowly and deliberately. All of which should be a real downer. But no. Chris Porterfield and Co. wrap the stories up in lovely melodies. And this time, they added a little hint of electronic jiggery-pokery to their more traditional Americana.

In the dog days of summer, new releases are hard to find and good ones even scarcer. So, this is a chance to catch up some albums that really should have been reviewed.

Honeyblood

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EHL – 1 month

There’s a definite riot grrrl thing going on here. Just drums, guitar and vocals. This is serious Glasgow girl power. “I will hate you forever, Scumbag, sleaze, Slimeball, grease, You really do disgust me”. But this is no nostalgia trip, or musical equivalent of an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. This is an album full of fantastic hooks. And on songs like ‘(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here’, ‘Biro’, and ‘Choker’, the vocals by Stine Tweeddale are utterly mesmerizing.

NME review

The Line of Best Fit review

The 405 review

Pitchfork review

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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EHL – 3 weeks

The Söderberg sisters experience a certain crisis of conscience on their follow up to the The Lion’s Roar. Low key. Reflective. Doubtful. Well, it was recorded in Omaha by Bright Eyes’ producer, Mike Mogis. But, don’t worry, Johanna and Klara haven’t invented a new genre of emo-folk. This is still First Aid Kit at their uplifting, anthemic best.

Pitchfork review

Music OMH review

The Line of Best Fit review

American Songwriter review

Horse Thief – Fear In Bliss

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EHL – 3 weeks

More beautiful bardology from the Bella Union label. This time from new signing, Horse Thief. Packed full of indie-guitar hooks, there’s an infectiousness to the sound. Plus, there’s the first ever song to begin with the line ‘I want to be a Human Geographer’. Physical geographers have apparently taken umbrage.

The 405 review

The Line of Best Fit review

Music OMH review

Wooden Wand – Farmer’s Corner

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EHL – 3 weeks

This is perhaps the closest James Jackson Toth will ever come to a mainstream album. Darn if ‘Sinking Feelings’ don’t sound like ‘Pocahontas’. And both ‘Dambuilding’ and ‘When The Trail Goes Cold’ are instant Harvest-era classics. But this is still a Wooden Wand album. It’s scarcely prime time listening. And that’s the very appeal.

The Line of Best Fit review

Pitchfork review

Pop Matters review

The Black Keys – Turn Blue

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EHL – 2 weeks

The Black Keys are an easy target. Global success has ensured that. Yet they’re still worth a dispassionate listen. While they could have delivered another album full of T-Rex-influenced, three-minute earworms, they’re confident enough to take a step back and slow things down. The opener, ‘Weight of Love’, is a particular favourite in that regard.

Music OMH review

Pretty Much Amazing review

Consequence of Sound review