Typically, we picture long trips on the open road through small towns and stopping at nameless rest stops as something only Americans could understand. But First Aid Kit—Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg—have proven anyone can adopt the wandering lifestyle. Having already proven themselves as Americana folk superstars, their third studio effort, Stay Gold, sees them exploring the sentiments of anonymity and uncertainty that come when you’re more used to seeing the pavement than your own home.
As a whole, the album’s themes teeter between longing for a different life and the difficulty of their current one on the road. There doesn’t appear to be much room for hope, but they execute their sadness so beautifully that it’s easy to accept their blue moods. Fleeting One expresses the fragility of love and how it change in an instant. Similarly, Cedar Lane is a downtempo tune that describes the empty feeling you get when you don’t necessarily have a steady home. They sing, “Coast after coast, cities and states/My world’s an empty map where nothing remains.”
Their harmonious voices blend perfectly throughout the album and are the highlight of their sound. Rarely is there a moment where one sister sings alone for longer than a verse, and they’ve found a way to balance each other rather than either one standing out. The Bell is one of their most somber songs, but its mood is made beautiful through the sister’s tight-knit vocals. In the same way, Shattered And Hollow is brought to a deeper emotional level and captures how the duo prefer to go through the pain of heartbreak rather than remain blissfully stable.
The opening track and single, Silver Lining, is one of the few slivers of hope that gives First Aid Kit’s journey a purpose. Here, they realize that there’s always a reward that comes from hard work. The lines, “Something good comes with the bad/A song’s never just sad/There’s hope, there’s a silver lining” serve as a reminder that although this album may be sad, there’s always something else we can look forward to.
These sisters offer us a glimpse into their erratic lifestyle, but still offer us a way of relating to their fundamental issues. Heartbreak, homesickness and the hopeless feeling that “the grass is greener on the other side” are realities that we all face, albeit in different ways. If they were to leave the listener with any particular message though it’s to push through the hard times because there’s always—well usually—a bright end.