At first listen, Middle Kids sound like another pretty-good group coming from Australia’s rock scene that has exploded stateside in recent years. Artists like Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, and Gang of Youths have been a major player in the indie rock scene. With that sort of pedigree, it would seem that the band might just be another name lost in the Aussie-rock shuffle. However, that’s not the case. Their debut, Lost Friends is an auspicious, anthemic debut that shows just how much potential there is from bands from down under.
Formed in 2015 by spouses guitarist/singer Hannah Joy and bassist Tim Fitz, the group joined up with drummer Harry Day and released the self-titled Middle Kids EP in 2017 that spawned the hit “Edge of Town” that earned them their first-ever US television appearance on Conan. It’s no surprise why – these songs are lived-in, propulsive blasts of guitar fuzz and driving drums and bass that sound great out of any stereo. The album’s opening track – the slow building “Bought It”, blends lightly picked guitar that eventually layers into a Smiths-sounding guitar riff until it hits the last verse and blows right open right after the bridge with Joy’s voice along with it. The up-tempo “Mistake” begins with the dizzying drum hits ripped right out of The National’s playbook, while last year’s hit “Edge of Town” follows not long after. It’s no surprise why this song has garnered attention – it’s a showcase for Joy’s lithe vocal, accented by jangly guitars and a driving rhythm section. Plus, it’s really fun to sing the “I’m upside down/I’m inside out” hook.
For a band that’s still relatively new, their sound is pretty locked in. Joy and Fitz say they don’t write together, but there’s an intimacy in their arrangements that’s undeniable – especially when you hear the anthemic, swerving, “On My Knees”, with its knotty guitar and bass arrangements that intertwine in a way that comes with playing music with someone for a long period of time. If that’s not enough to show the band’s nimbleness, they take a left turn again – “Hole” is a gorgeous piano ballad that accents with the faintest strings. It’s really amazing considering the emphasis the band shows on propulsive rock songs.
These songs showcase the best parts of a young band, but also offer something more. “Please” hints at a more liberal use of synths down the road, Songs like the title track offer at something more – there’s a little twang here and there, something that sounds like it would suit Joy’s vocal delivery quite well. They’re moments of great promise that doesn’t show the band’s future direction but instead that offer the potential of *what* it could be. Lost Friends is a great debut. Some say middle kids in a family are often forgotten. I’d be hard to think that’s the case with this band with a record this good.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.