Emotional ruminations reign paramount on the Middle Kids’ unforgettable sophomore album, Today We’re The Greatest.
Three-piece pop-rockers Middle Kids recorded most of their tantalising debut album Lost Friends in a low-roofed basement instead of a studio. Bassist and producer Tim told us back in 2018 that the studio “just didn’t sound right”. It’s a small comment, but fundamental to understanding the allure of their sound.
Middle Kids’ gravitation towards authenticity has been explored further on Today We’re The Greatest, and it’s made for their most compelling release to date. Take Hannah and Tim’s decision to include their baby’s heartbeat in Run With You… it doesn’t get more real than that.
“Hope is an underrated word,” Hannah begins on opener Bad Neighbours: an unreserved slow-burner regarding a traumatic event of the singer’s past. The haunting yet hopeful conviction beckons the listener to open their heart and mind, contrasting Lost Friends – which was more focused on getting a crowd hyped and moving.
Scattered synth flickers about on single Cellophane (Brain), musically mimicking Hannah’s brain as it searches for solid ground. Later, an unconventional rhythm section joins the disorientating track, paving the way for a devastating revelation: “nothing more sad than a man who cries, in his car, in the driveway.”
Lead single R U 4 Me gallops with an unending barrage of radio-friendly hooks, fuzzy electrics, and some of the album’s finest drumming. When Hannah said, “I want to make music that loves its listener,” this anthem fulfils the quota with flying colours. Next is the unforgettable hit Questions. It begins with infectious hand-clapping, then drops a brass-laden breakdown that worthily matches the intensity of the song’s message.
“I got questions, and you got answers, but I’m not sure if they’re even worth asking.” It’s a universally relatable position, yet possible of surfacing so many unique interpretations – from wanting to reveal your feelings to another, to craving candour from someone who’s “lying all the time.”
The inclusion of brass is one of many new sounds that the band have quipped for the sophomore effort. Lost in Los Angeles explores relationship shortcomings with a six-string banjo, previously owned by Neil Finn of Crowded House. Middle Kids’ covered Don’t Dream It’s Over for Like A Version back in their younger years, so dusting off the banjo must have been a savoury studio moment. Other compelling sounds included the sweet innocence of chirping birds on Golden Star and scissors serving as percussion on the uplifting Summer Hill.
After the indie-dream haze of Some People Stay In Our Hearts Forever (true) and the passionate Run With You comes I Don’t Care, which sounds like nothing else on the record. The crisp electronic beat gives way to some real drums, as a stadium-ready chorus breaks loose: “I don’t fucking care I gotta do what I want to” is belted eight consecutive times, making it a contender for the most liberating song of 2021.
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You’ll get your breath back on Stacking Chairs, a nourishing ode to staying in love. “When the world turns on you I’ll be there” is a real ‘aww’ moment. Then, at last, comes finisher and title track Today We’re The Greatest… Hannah’s delicate vocals paired with only piano make for a dangerously emotive intro, on the same calibre as an early 2000s Missy Higgins tear-jerker. By the end of the track, the hefty weight of melancholy is completely overwhelming. You’ll be pretending you’re in a music video, holding your loved one close, reminiscing the past, or crying into a faded pillow. Perhaps all at once.
“Life is gory and boring sometimes,” but today, you’re the greatest, Middle Kids.
Today We’re The Greatest is out this Friday, March 19, through EMI Australia. Pre-order your copy here.