If you live in the United States and pay any attention to the top twenty artists featured on the Billboard 200, you know that America’s current musical fixations include two distinctly different types of performers: viral hit personality rappers and ruggedly handsome country singers. Sure, you’ll occasionally find a rock act or two on the list, but their inclusion tends to be because an album released a million years ago was suddenly offered for a ridiculously low price or said rock act has just put out a greatest hits collection. Meanwhile, down under, Australia seems to be experiencing an indie renaissance of sorts. Solo acts like Kirin J. Callinan and Alex Cameron both released critically acclaimed albums in 2017, and newer bands like The Goon Sax, School Damage, Camp Cope, and Haiku Hands are actively producing excellent indie pop/rock as well. If they haven’t already, those currently dipping into Australia’s well of talent should consider adding Middle Kids to their Aussie playlists.
Middle Kids are a trio from Sydney made up of singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, her husband, bassist Tim Fitz, and Harry Day on drums. The band released a self-titled EP in early 2017 and went so far as to perform their song “Edge of Town” on Conan. Middle Kids’ first full-length, Lost Friends, includes the group’s sleeper hit in addition to eleven other indie pop/rock tracks.
Joy and company deliver an original sound that finds the band emphasizing the second and fourth beats. This pulsing effect creates a rhythmic sway that’s at once easy to appreciate and move to. Hannah’s vocal versatility works well with the compositions, flawlessly transitioning from a sincere, steady lilt to a falsetto and back again. Middle Kids’ lyrics are often simplistic, like when they rhyme “Sunday” with “fun day” on the opening song, “Bought”, or when the words “pay back” are rhymed with “way back” on the chorus to “Mistake”.
On occasion a synth is used to add strings or a playful splash of color, but otherwise every song puts the three members’ instruments front and center. The wonderfully slithering lead guitar work and mid-song solo on “Edge of Town”, Harry Day’s tricky time signature changes and unique fills during “On My Knees”, and Tim Fitz’s standout bass work on “Tell Me Something” all do a good job of showcasing the members’ solo talents and contributions.
The gorgeous mid-album piano ballad, “Hole”, has Hannah lamenting the loss of youthful innocence, a theme that runs throughout Lost Friends. It isn’t until three quarters of the way into the record that the title track appears. Over a mid-tempo beat and occasional slide guitar, “Lost Friends” finds Joy singing emotionally about acquaintances moving away from one another and starting their own lives. The record is concluded with “So Long, Farewell, I’m Gone”, a finale that begins with a single note played repeatedly on a piano, building tension with a rolling snare and playful synths before Joy and Fitz join in to bring the record to an appropriately rousing finish.
Overall, Lost Friends is a solid first album from beginning to end. Its themes of entering adulthood and navigating relationships are universally relatable. Additionally, thanks mostly to Hannah Joy’s strong vocal performance and the trio’s trademark groove, Middle Kids have carved themselves out a pleasantly identifiable style, one that will allow their sound to stand out amongst their Aussie peers and garner them well deserved new fans upon exposure to the songs on their inaugural full-length.