Middle Kids: Faith Crisis, Pt. 1

Titling your album Faith Crisis, Pt. 1 would imply that there will be, at the very least, a Faith Crisis, Pt. 2. If at some point in the future the Australian indie pop trio Middle Kids attempt to deliver a sequel to this, their fourth studio album, they’ve certainly set the bar high for themselves in terms of song quality and overall enjoyability. Faith Crisis, Pt. 1 arrives three years after the band’s mediocre sophomore full-length, Today We’re the Greatest, and in that time, they’ve written some excellent material that has all been expertly rendered with the help of producer Jonathan Gilmore.

With post-punk flare, Tim Fitz’s pulsing bass brings Faith Crisis’ first song, “Petition”, to life. Fitz is soon joined by drummer Harry Day who lays down a quick, crisp pattern that sets things up nicely for singer/guitarist Hannah Joy whose beautiful vocals take this, the album’s foundational moment, to a glorious apex each time the song’s chorus rolls through. Five songs in, Faith Crisis’ first single, “Bootleg Firecracker”, provides a well-timed breather in the sequence. Here, Joy tenderly plucks out a melody on an acoustic guitar for this love song wherein she analogizes herself to a black-market firework that “could blow up in your hand.” As if delivering on the promises of the record’s promotional rollout, “Highlands”, Faith Crisis’ second single, follows “Bootleg Firecracker” and acts as a pick-me-up tempo-wise. “Wherever you are, we’re just getting started, out of the dark, into the highlands, give me your heart, I wanna hide it, and I can’t keep waiting for things to change,” Joy sings breathlessly as Day and Fitz hold things down firmly while a subtle slide guitar breezes through underneath it all. Side A is concluded with the breathtaking standout “Bend”. Here, Joy expresses frustration and emotional desperation so palpably that you can literally hear her voice shaking with fervor. The standout track makes for one of the most beautiful and memorable moments on the album.

“Go to Sleep on Me” opens Faith Crisis’ second half with Day’s drums sounding ever so slightly over-modulated to give them a more synthetic sound. The treated percussion is paired well with Joy’s reverb-heavy vocals as she sings about a middle-class life marred by misery. The post-punk spirit that imbued Faith Crisis’ opener returns on the back-to-back songs “Terrible News” and “Philosophy”. The production work is superb on both tracks as they’re brought to stunning life with well-timed distortion that shifts in and out but never drowns out or overperforms Hannah’s vocals.

Gang of Youths’ frontman Dave Le’aupepe joins Hannah for Faith Crisis’ final song, “All in My Head”, a gorgeously intimate duet wherein the two are accompanied only by a piano. “I wanna be like Princess Peach, but she’s so difficult to reach,” Le’aupepe sings with all sincerity before he and Joy harmonize during the song’s outro, repeating, “Is it all in my head?” With Faith Crisis, Pt. 1, Middle Kids surpass expectations. If there’s a Faith Crisis, Pt. 2, in the works, it’s got a lot to live up to.

Rating: 9.0/10

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