Though this winter has been a long one, cold, bleak and with little end in sight, spring's first tentative touches have arrived fittingly at the same time as Middle Kids' second record, 'Today We're The Greatest'. And, much like the season it arrives in, harbours warmth and richness in abundance, but a sense of fragility and vulnerability also. Made up of large swathes of widescreen, technicolour indie-pop and quieter, more introspective moments, 'Today We're The Greatest' is a record made for open roads.
Coming three years after their debut Lost Friends, the trio are stretching their alt rock to encompass both folk and synth pop, resulting in an exploration of both sonic and thematic spectrums - tackling the highs and lows of past, present and future in a more autobiographical way than ever before. Departing from the more abstract and conceptual songwriting of previous, this time Middle Kids are pulling from lead singer Hannah Joy's experiences from before, during and after her pregnancy in the hope that doing so would allow thier listeners to feel seen, and perhaps less alone in their highs, lows and everything in between. .
The world feels like a particularly harsh place the past several years and already 2021 is not shaping up to be much better. But in days like this, a little optimism can go a long way. Australian indie rockers Middle Kids brought hints of that optimism in their debut album, 2018's Lost Friends, but the main focus for the band was on barrelling festival-sized rock tracks and portraits of stumbling emotional struggles.
It's difficult to say what exactly about Middle Kids I find so appealing. When I first heard 'Questions', I rolled my eyes. The folksy handclaps, the post-chorus explosion of brass. Everything about the song felt like too much. By the time I revisited it, though, much later, and ….
On first listen, everything seems in the right place for Middle Kids. With their sun-kissed melodies and grand-scale arrangements, the Sydney, Australia trio writes soaring acoustic songs graced with the honeyed, expressive vocals of Hannah Joy. But as with any musically-optimistic pick-me-up, there's a palpable sense of sadness lurking in every plucky chord change and tumbling drum beat.