First Aid Kit – Ghost Town

For stereotype-minded Americans like myself, Sweden typically brings to mind either bloodthirsty Vikings or tastefully designed build-it-yourself furniture. As a former metalhead obsessed with the Gothenburg melodic death scene, roughly half the bands in my iTunes library (circa 2002 or so) hailed from Sweden or Scandinavia. I am no expert, and I am sure Sweden boasts a rich railroading heritage, but train songs have always seemed a little outside the typical Swedish milieu. In First Aid Kit, we have a duo of young angelic folksingers with one of the few Swedish train songs that I know of. Surely there are more, but I am admittedly a little rusty on my Swedish folk music knowledge. These two girls’ pretty harmonies, eloquent songwriting, and a well-timed youtube cover of a Fleet Foxes song, have earned them a sizable audience, and even a tour slot alongside Bright Eyes.

The song itself conjures up images of travel and life on the road, but returns to trains in every chorus, where the narrator “finds themselves attached to this railroad track.” The railroad track could mean a couple of things in this one. The most direct interpretation is that the song is just a road song, with the narrator traveling through ghost towns, attached to the railroad track, and lamenting the lover left behind. Or if one reads a little more into it, the song could be a ghost song, about a woman killed along a railroad track who mourns her lover, who has since moved on with a new family. But the ghost woman promises she will return one day, presumably to do the haunting that ghosts are wont to do. Either interpretation puts the song in a long tradition of songs linking trains with lost loves (see half the other posts on this blog for examples). Personally, I have been attached to railroad tracks in an entirely different matter over the long march to finish my dissertation, but I doubt this type of railroad obsession is what the songwriters had in mind…

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