The opening verse of the new EP from Middle Kids sets the tone for what’s to come on this thrilling record: “We accept all beliefs and prayers/But if you don’t agree, you can sit over there/Express yourself with personal flair/But first check that it fits with the kids upstairs.” These lyrics stuck with me since it in many ways encapsulates all that goes into today’s society of expressing yourself, but not impeding on others beliefs. At times we can be so ingrained into what we believe to be morally right or just, that we may forget that many others don’t think the same way as us.
Coming just a little over a year from their debut full-length LP, Lost Friends, Middle Kids expand upon their sound in exciting ways on New Songs For Old Problems. Whereas their debut album found the Australian band figuring out their sound, this new record finds them at their most accomplished and confident.
“Salt Eyes” is the first single released from this new collection of songs, and one of the stronger moments on this release. Singer/guitarist Hannah Joy has never sounded more vibrant, inspired, or professional in her vocal delivery. Her lyrical content on this chorus has also steadily improved since their original self-titled EP when she sings, “All this time we believed we were living/So high, splitting sides, getting thinner/We were so tired, baby we got salt eyes.” Joy’s metaphors and lyrical explorations come across perfectly in just the right moments of each song.
“Needle” follows the brilliant single with a mid-tempo, piano-based track that reminded me of the early magic of the legendary Fleetwood Mac. Drummer Harry Day and bassist Tim Fritz play off of each other nicely on this particular song that never loses focus on its message or instrumentation.
My personal favorite on the new record, “Real Thing” rocks with a more immediate purpose and features some brilliant pop hooks, fuzzy guitars, and an overall solid song structure. Joy sings on the chorus built to reach the masses when she belts out, “Don’t it ever make you feel sad/Oh is this the real thing?/Are you like me do you lie awake thinking/Oh is this the real thing?” I’m sure the majority of Middle Kids’ adoring fans are going to be with them every step of the way once they hear this song for the first time, and receive further vindication on its staying power on their North American tour with Local Natives.
The closing duo of “Call Me Snowflake” and “Big Softy” reminded me why Middle Kids released one of my favorite records of last year: they simply write great, honest songs. On the album closer, in particular, Middle Kids never feel rushed to expand upon the themes and messages they introduced early on in their career. Instead, they masterfully tell a story in their songs that easily relatable, and the track feels warm and lush thanks to the perfect production. Middle Kids never stray from what made them one of the bands to watch in 2018, yet this EP is a solid reminder that great songwriting still has a place in our music rotations. This band continues to impress with each subsequent release, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.