Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year Winner

Talk about tight competition! Over the course of 2014 everywhere you turned you found another talented country group. Whether they were dynamic duos or established groups, there was no shortage of candidates for this award. While it was difficult to choose the winner of this award, it ultimately came down to which group’s body of work impressed Derek and myself more. There was one group that we felt was ultimately better than the rest. The winner of Country Perspective’s Best Group of 2014 award is…

First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

We felt First Aid Kit should win first and foremost because their album months after being released still sounds as great as the first time we heard it. We went back and re-listened to all of these nominees’ albums and this was one that just simply blew us away the most still. If it wasn’t for Sturgill Simpson’s album, First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold might have won our album of the year award. There’s not a single bad song nor “filler” song on First Aid Kit’s album. Their harmonies shine. They displayed such a wide array of emotions, from smart and witty humor to downtrodden and dark sadness. You can’t ask for anything more out of this album. As I said at the beginning of my review of Stay Gold:

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album.

First Aid Kit took a step forward in terms of being noticed in America this year too. They performed on Letterman, Conan and The Ellen Degeneres Show this year, while also being recognized by prominent music outlets. Their United States tour largely sold out. They also wonderfully covered Paul Simon’s “America.” This duo will hopefully continue to be noticed more here in the states in 2015, as they deserve to be heard by the largest audience possible. This is the kind of music I want to hear when I turn on the radio. This is one of the best duos in not just country music, but all music. If you haven’t done so yet, please go listen to this group’s music. 

Congratulations to First Aid Kit on a phenomenal 2014.

(Image Source: Telegraph)

Album Review – First Aid Kit’s “Stay Gold”

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album.

Stay Gold starts off with “My Silver Lining.” This song is about finding the good in every situation. The sisters really show off their range in this song and is a good start to the album. This is followed by “Master Pretender,” the most explicit song on the album. I reason I say most explicit is because of the following line towards the latter part of the song: “I always thought you’d be here/But shit gets fucked up/And people just disappear.” It’s a haunting and jarring line. The melody of this song gives it a carefree feel, which is perfect because the song is about exploring and relationships.

The album’s title track, “Stay Gold,” is about wishing things would stay good, but it continues to fail and falter. The mood of the song is hopeful and determined in the face of bad recent happenings and striving to “stay gold.” It’s really one of the more underrated tracks on the album in terms of depth. “Cedar Lane” is one of the softer tracks on Stay Gold. It’s a song about reflecting on past love and hoping that love returns again. “Cedar Lane” is deepest song on the album and what really makes it one of the standouts is how the little things all come together. Everything is cohesive and paints a picture in the listener’s head, while also evoking that same emotion from them.

“Shattered & Hollow” has a similar theme to “Cedar Lane,” which is a reflection of a past relationship. It’s also a song about striving for more in life and trying to escape a feeling of emptiness. The emotions of this song are complex because the lines are about hopefulness, but the theme is about the hope being a part of the past and being gone now. “The Bell” is a complex song in terms of what its about. To me, I interpret it as it being about a person running away from a marriage (the line about running from the bell) and not wanting to return home. Instead they choose to travel, while reflecting on the choice. I really enjoy the harmonies at the end of this song.

This is followed by “Waitress Song,” is about exploring different experiences and journeys in life. The melody of this song is whimsical and light-hearted, really giving the song the perfect emotion of wandering. It’s really about finding yourself. “Fleeting One” is about a woman’s relationship slowly ending and falling out of love with her man. The woman slowly breaks out of the relationship and looks for her true love. The sisters really showcase their high vocal range well in this song.

The penultimate track on the album is definitely my favorite track on the album. “Heaven Knows” is an upbeat and fast song about a person seeing their partner slowly lose their identity and becoming a lie. They know they’re a liar and this has caused them to stop trying. They know their partner is better than what they have become. But then the person contemplates what happens if the relationship ends. This is indicated when the shrillest line on the album is uttered by the sisters: “What’ll we do if it comes down to it/If it all goes, straight to hell!” Really adds a punch to this song. Stay Gold concludes with “A Long Time Ago,” which is a reflective heartbreak song. The person in the song realizes they were never good enough for the other person and how they were never the right fit for them. A soft ballad that closes out a dynamic album.

I know this doesn’t squarely fall under country (it’s categorized as “alternative” on iTunes). It doesn’t fall under any one genre, but rather many. You hear elements from country, alternate country, folk, pop and Americana. It really reminds me of The Mavericks’ In Time album from last year, in that both do a great job of combining so many different elements and mixing them together to create such interesting and innovative music. Some traditionalists won’t like this album and that’s fine. I know First Aid Kit may not be for everybody. But if you’re somebody who can put on blinders when it comes to genre and just appreciate great music, then you should like this album.

Stay Gold is definitely more than good enough for me (and country enough). It’s one of the best albums of the year in all genres. This is the one of the top contenders for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10