Middle Kids’ sophomore record, ‘Today We’re The Greatest’, is a vivid collection of courageous, personal and rattling songs. It follows their critically acclaimed 2018 debut, ‘Lost Friends’.
The album was announced with the release of Questions, a track about the fallacies of intimate relationships. It tells the story of being in a relationship with someone who you fail to be honest or close with. It begins as a slow-paced track, with the focus entirely on lead vocalist Hannah Joy. As the track progresses, the instrumental builds up behind her, adding strength and power to her voice as the song reaches its ultimate climax: an orchestrated, explosive brass-fuelled instrumental interlude following the chorus.
Prior to this, the track R U 4 Me? was released. It is an instant burst of sound, with a catchy instrumental from the get-go. Serving as the perfect choice for the first single to be released from the album, it effectively blends the perfect mixture of indie and folk influences. It is the moment on the record where Middle Kids’ folk tendencies are most apparent, mirroring similar sounds to the track Lost Friends from their debut.
Run With You was written by Joy whilst she was pregnant with her and her fellow bandmate Tim Fitz’s child. The most impressive and unique element of the track is the inclusion of the recording of her 20-week sonogram, which was woven into the twenty-second outro of the track, becoming more prominent as the instrumental fades out. I have never heard a song utilise something like this, and it really brings the song to life, and emphasises that it was written about true emotions and real events.
the lyrics comes off as anything but generic
Another song which was written about her relationship with Fitz is Stacking Chairs, which appears as the penultimate track on the album. Despite being a love-song, which is a relatively cliché topic in the realm of song-writing, the lyrics comes off as anything but generic. They are intricate and unique, and the chorus of the track still manages to be incredibly catchy whilst avoiding the common clichés that often surface when writing about love.
Album opener Bad Neighbours flaunts Joy’s impressive vocal range, accompanied by a complementary subtle acoustic instrumental. The song is captivatingly beautiful in its raw simplicity – a perfect example of when less truly can be more. The following track, Cellophane, initially appears to take a similar approach. However, it has a slightly bolder chorus, and the instrumental has more layers. This progression builds the album up layer by layer, track by track, gradually easing you in.
Lost in Los Angeles has a dreamy chorus, with smooth and flawless vocals. It is another example of where the focus of the song is placed onto Joy’s vocals. The instrumental, whilst sufficient, is not overly complex, made up of purely an acoustic guitar and a drum rhythm. It provides the perfect backing for Joy’s voice to shine, without overpowering or taking anything away from her vocals.
The track Golden Star begins with the lyric “You are my golden star”, making the track instantly recognisable. Here, the instrumental is more stripped back than ever, except for in the breaks without vocals, where experiments with a wider array of instruments can be heard. The track has an extended outro, consisting of sound effects that mimic rainfall and a bird calling. It is perhaps the most experimental track on the album.
They see Middle Kids channelling their more indie-leaning influences
Summer Hill, alongside the track with the longest title, Some People Stay In Our Hearts Forever, are two of the most upbeat moments on the record. They see Middle Kids channelling their more indie-leaning influences, to craft songs with more prominent instrumentals which capture every element of the indie genre successfully. The latter in particular is a highlight of the album.
However, one of the tracks which follows, titled I Don’t Care, is perhaps the most upbeat track of them all. The chorus is full of feisty angst and independence, with the repeated lyric “I don’t f****** care, I gotta do what I want to.” The instrumental matches Joy’s energy, with fast-paced guitars and crashing drums. It is a surprising change of pace, especially since it appears in the latter half of the record, however it’s refreshing to see a new side to the trio.
The album closer, Today We’re The Greatest, focuses on the importance of focusing on the present. The track shifts for the final minute, changing from a standard verse-chorus structure to a minute-long outro in which the same lyrical phrase is repeated, finishing the album with a true sense of closure.
‘Today We’re The Greatest’ proves that Middle Kids have mastered writing two types of song: the first being vocal-focused tracks with subtle acoustic instrumentals, and the latter being catchy indie-folk anthems. Overall, the album successfully captures all of the trio’s contrasting strengths, whilst remaining a cohesive project.
Featured image courtesy of James Sutton via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.
In-article images courtesy of @middlekidsmusic via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.
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