Palomino horses aren’t usually born with the golden coats that they’re eventually known for. Instead, they grow into their striking splendor as the years pass, brandishing these colors with age. In similar fashion, First Aid Kit have grown into the majesty and magic of their sound. The sister duo—Klara and Johanna Söderberg—share stories of heartbreak, happiness, life, and love above a patchwork of natural instrumentation. After quietly amassing over 1 billion streams and counting and earning widespread acclaim, the duo shine like never before on their 2022 fifth full-length, the aptly titled Palomino [Columbia Records].
“Palomino represents freedom,” notes Johanna. “A lot has happened since our last album. That was a very depressing time. I broke up with my fiancé after we’d been together for five years. Singing about the breakup was really tough. During the tour (for Ruins) Klara and I decided this record had to be hopeful and lighter. I think it really is.”
“We’ve grown up,” Klara agrees. “As we get older, the music is more about having fun and being positive. We wanted the songs to be joyous. It’s like a Phoenix rising from the ashes—or a Palomino riding through the desert,” she smiles.
They’ve worked diligently to get here. The two-time BRIT Award-nominated Swedish duo’s blend of artful songcraft and ambitious melodies continues to fixate audiences worldwide. Following The Big Black and The Blue  and The Lion’s Roar , the group reached critical mass with 2014’s Stay Gold. The lead single “My Silver Lining” gathered hundreds of millions of streams and picked up a gold certification in the UK. In 2018, Ruins went gold in Sweden and earned “4-out-of-5 stars” from The Guardian, Q, and NME, while Pitchfork applauded it as “a showcase for their sweet harmonies, with some bold stylistic departures.” In the wake of the latter, they scored a second nomination at the BRIT Awards in the category of “Brit Award for International Group.” They collaborated with everyone from Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst to George Ezra and Zara Larsson. Beyond dozens of film and television syncs a la The Umbrella Academy, the girls voiced characters in the English and Swedish versions of NETFLIX’s Centaurworld. Plus, they’ve delivered stunning performances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Johanna and Klara took advantage of time off the road and wrote out of a shared “office in an old medieval building.” Rather than venture to the States, they opted to record in Stockholm for the first time in a decade with producer Daniel Bengtson at the helm. Under the influence of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and Hall & Oates, the pair embraced bright melodies and vibrant soundscapes brought to life by their signature harmonies and Daniel’s artful orchestration.
“We had all of these scraps, but we sat down and finished them last year,” recalls Johanna. “Once we did, we realized we had something. We didn’t want to travel to make this record. We were going to Daniel’s studio nine-to-five. It was way more chill. We spent so much time on everything, and the songs evolved organically.”
Another first, the sisters welcomed cowriters into the process, penning a handful of tunes with new friends such as Björn Yttling. After setting the stage for Palomino with “Angel,” they introduced the album with the upbeat and undeniable single “Out of My Head.” Right off the bat, Stereogum praised the “propulsive beat, stacked harmonies, and shining synths,” while Consequence of Sound hailed it as “anthemic.”
“You’re getting stuck in your own thought patterns and driving yourself crazy,” Klara reveals. “I’m saying, ‘I wish I could get out of my head for a second’. It’s simple, and that’s the beauty of it and what we wanted to communicate in the moment.”
“We had this surreal moment where Klara banged out a lot of the lyrics in one go,” Johanna remembers. “I think it was finished in twenty minutes. I don’t even think she understands how impressed we were by what she did!”
Expanding their partnership with Björn, “Nobody Knows” echoes with the AM radio wonder of some long-lost fifty’s ballad wrapped in epic strings, Spaghetti Western-style guitar, and whistling. Meanwhile, the vocals entwine in a heavenly and hypnotic back-and-forth.
“We were inspired by the Everly Brothers,” Klara observes. “The drama was there, but the strings enhanced it. When we were young, we didn’t know what we wanted to say. Now, we say something simple and straightforward.”
“It sort of references my relationship with Klara,” Johanna elaborates. “We’ve been through a lot. When she was burnt out, it was really tough for me. What we have together is special. ‘Nobody Knows’ represents how I feel.”
Then, there’s “Wild Horses II.” On the track, lithely plucked acoustic guitar kickstarts a vivid tale of “a couple on a road trip.”
“Their relationship falls apart in the car,” Klara goes on. “The couple are listening to ‘Wild Horses’ either by Rolling Stones or Flying Burrito Brothers. In the beginning, it’s not a big deal that they like different versions. Seeing their differences, they realize it’s a much bigger deal.”
“We just can’t go a record without mentioning Gram Parsons,” laughs Johanna.
“Fallen Snow” and “Turning On To You” find the pair carve out “pure love songs in a way we haven’t in the past,” adds Klara.
The record culminates with the sweeping and soaring finale “Palomino.” Guitar and horns herald a triumphantly liberating chorus, “Where you go my love goes, darling.”
“It’s another love song, but you’re moving on from someone and seeing it in a positive light,” Johanna says. “This is all about letting go and not blaming yourself for everything.”
In the end, First Aid Kit have become the band they were meant to be all along on Palomino.
“We grew up in this band,” Klara leaves off. “We were so young when we started. I just think of the band as a little bird in the palm of my hand now. We can’t squeeze it too hard; we have to nurture it and take care of it. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
“We’re stronger now,” Johanna concludes. “It’s not as hard, and it feels more meaningful when we write and play shows. Meeting people and connecting is so beautiful. Ultimately, this is how we connect.”
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