Music Reviews
Today We're the Greatest

Middle Kids Today We're the Greatest

(Domino) Rating - 6/10

On first listen, everything seems in the right place for Middle Kids. With their sun-kissed melodies and grand-scale arrangements, the Sydney, Australia trio writes soaring acoustic songs graced with the honeyed, expressive vocals of Hannah Joy. But as with any musically-optimistic pick-me-up, there's a palpable sense of sadness lurking in every plucky chord change and tumbling drum beat. In some cases, the trio gets very personal. As they recorded their second LP, Joy and her husband (bassist and Tim Fitz) were expecting a baby together—an event that caused them to rethink their writing approach while wanting to build upon the thrill they felt.

As such, the band's big, open-hearted anthems are a direct result of time rushing by. From R U 4 Me? to Summer Hill, Joy goes into issues of trust and reconciling with the past over brittle, uptempo guitars (the latter even respectfully borrows New Order's Ceremony.) There's also a mellow, more sensitive side even if the songs rarely settle. From the O.C. soundtrack-recalling Bad Neighbours to Lost in Los Angeles, she's clinging to the littlest of hope in what amounts to two of the album's most soppy ballads. And you'd best believe that Joy aims for the higher registers for maximum effect.

It's hard to fault Middle Kids with their winning hooks and lack of nuance. The trio sounds like they're having the time of their lives on I Don't Care," yelling out "I gotta do what I want to" choruses alongside galloping rhythms they can hardly keep up with—and even an aw-shucks recording of Joy and Fitz's baby boy's sonogram in its final seconds for no other good reason than to hit us right in our hearts. Middle Kids haven't quite found a way to articulate their sudsy emotions with deft intention and control. But if you're looking for pristine pop that, admittedly, sounds really, really good, you can't go wrong with this pleasant diversion.