Middle Kids’ debut album, Lost Friends, was awarded the J award for album of the year in 2018. So, you might be wondering, why does a band with such a title under their belt need further appreciation? Well, let me tell you.
The trio from Sydney graced festival stages with Party in the Paddock and Laneway in February, yet one would be forgiven if they didn’t catch their set. They strutted their stuff on the first night (a Thursday night) at PITP, warming up the stage outside of the primetime slot. They hit the second stage at Laneway at 2:00pm, finishing before the cheese had melted on the overpriced toasties and the bulk of the crowd had smuggled their fanny packs into the venue. Keep in mind, this is the same band that has played to sold out shows in the US, as well as performed to millions on the late-night television circuit with Conan and Jimmy Kimmel.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way attempting to undermine the artists following Middle Kids on the festival bills, nor saying they aren’t worthy of headline slots. What I am saying is that this group has headline potential, and it’s high time it’s realised by the Australian public and festival organisers alike.
Looking back at their discography to date, Middle Kids have had some big-time releases. Smash hits Edge of Town and Never Start jump off their self-titled debut EP (earning them a place on the LP), introducing us to their catchy and coordinated sound and Hannah Joys sublime vocals. The sense of self-awareness in the lyrics is a distinguishable theme on the EP and is further explored in their debut and award-winning record, Lost Friends.
Triple J album of the year, and for good reason. Opening with Bought It, Middle Kids reel us in with exactly what we’ve come to expect from them, and a little extra. Crisp, inviting vocals supported by intoxicating instrumental, all culminating in a slow breakdown and an uplifting hook and finish. Lyrics and music which stay with you long after the final beat is heard. Their ability to incorporate changes of pace into their music is second to none, and one of the reasons why this groups ceiling is so high. Lead singles Mistake and On my Knees showcase the diversity of Middle Kids’ sound and the edges of the spectrum at which they are willing to operate. Mistake is upbeat, catchy, vocally inviting and highlights everything this group does well, leading to it placing at #64 (criminally low) in the 2018 hottest 100. Conversely, On my Knees was an open invitation for Joy to showcase her vocal range, and boy did she accept. The sound is different, but still manages to maintain the strengths of the groups sound, a perfect blend of percussion and guitar to support the vocals. Two different souls, yet both will have you out of your chair singing and dancing along before you know it.
There is a perception that the lead singles on an album are the biggest and best hits that an artist has to offer at that time, however, Middle Kids challenge this stigma with Don’t Be Hiding. Catchy, relatable and intoxicating, I dare you not to have this one as a playlist staple. This song is an absolute crowd pleaser and delivers an anthem that Middle Kids will be playing at every live show in their hopefully long future. Additionally, one of the most underrated and overlooked songs on the album, Please, is an experiment which paid off in a major way. The group challenged themselves with a stronger, deeper guitar line and drum pattern, and combined it with Joy’s soft tones, but that’s not all. Again, demonstrating their ability to alter the pace of a track, the drums and guitar come to a halt and are replaced by a polite cello, complementing Joy’s voice and providing the perfect build up to a knockout chorus. Give this song another listen, please.
Not only did Middle Kid’s prove they’re capable of delivering a number of high quality and diverse tracks for a full album, they also showcased their ability to construct an album which flows and takes the listener on a journey. Slower tracks, Maryland and Hole, don’t stand out as ‘hits’ on their own accord, but instead play a crucial role in controlling the albums pace and spotlighting the groups variability. Title track Lost Friends reinforces everything this group is good at, as a title track should. A lyrically pleasing and infectious chorus delivered by stunning vocals, backed by unique and charming instrumental. This, combined with enough variability in pitch and pace, is the glorious recipe for music which Middle Kids follow to a tee. Finally, closing tracks Tell Me Something and So Long Farewell I’m Gone provide the listener with a final chance to really appreciate and reflect on the journey they’ve just taken, grappling with the clean and crisp instrumental and Joy’s unique, penetrating and yet comforting voice. These final tracks do exactly what they are designed to do, leave us wanting more.
This group has headline potential, and it’s high time it’s realised by the Australian public and festival organisers alike.
And recently, we got more. Salt Eyes, somehow manages to be both hard, cutting edge, soft and sincere all at once, offering a window into what we can expect from the Sydneysiders in the future. The group admittedly spent a lot of time in recording studios during their extended US tour, and this is evidence they have no plans to rest on their laurels.
Known for a high energy live set, with hits and anthems from start to finish, Middle Kids are coming home for the Real Thing (another hint at new music) tour. This group has the discography, charisma, character and energy to be one of the Australian indie scenes most beloved bands, and it’s time they are shown some local appreciation. So, with the promise of new music not too far away and tickets on sale and selling fast, there is no better time to jump on the Middle Kids bandwagon then right now. If you don’t, then I have no issue in saying you’ll be making a giant mistake.