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Album Review: ‘Lost Friends’ by Middle Kids

Sydney-based trio Middle Kids have already kicked more musical goals in their short career than some musos do in a lifetime.

They’ve toured with Paul Kelly, been labelled as musical geniuses by Gang of Youths and got the tick of approval by none other than Sir Elton John, who said they were his fave Australian band after the release of their self-titled EP last year.

This year they’ve sold out shows across Australia; the release of their debut album Lost Friends proves that their talent is not flailing any time soon. As triple j’s feature album all of last week, the station labelled Lost Friends as one of the “most anticipated albums of the year”, which says something considering we’re only in May.

Of the 12 tracks on the record, we’re blessed with 10 brand new tunes, and revisited by EP favourites ‘Edge of Town’ and ‘Never Start’. ‘Edge of Town’ is the one that got them discovered on triple j unearthed two years ago, and found them an international audience, with Tim Fitz telling the UK’s Line of Best Fit that he was in shock that punters in London knew the words to their song.

There’s no real defining Middle Kids’ sound outside the broad, ambiguous label of “indie rock.” Their EP gave us a taste of a genre that was somewhere near a 60/40 balance of rock and folk.  The album, however, blurs the lines between folk, rock and pop, featuring a country twang.

Hannah’s voice has a natural tremble that means she can yodel alongside that Walmart kid at Coachella, and in the next breath make you cry by perfectly articulating the hard emotion that drives her self-written lyrics.

The lead song, ‘Bought It’, has the soft-rock guitar intro we heard in ‘Edge of Town’, but as the instruments get heavier and Hannah’s voice jumps between registers, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this was an unheard track by The Cranberries.

‘Mistake’ is more folky and almost surfy. While the lyrics depict a relationship that’s spiralling into non-existence, the music will have you dancing around in an open field or doing a ceremonial burning of photos of your ex. Either way, it’s one of those happy songs about a sad situation that provides the listener with some feeling of acceptance. I wish it existed when I was fourteen, in place of Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’.

‘Maryland’ is slow and sombre. I recommend listening to it through headphones on a long train trip, staring out the window at the grey and dreary sky for optimum emotional effect. ‘Don’t Be Hiding’ and ‘Please’ are upbeat and deserve to be belted out, with the latter embracing Hannah’s church-hymn-singing roots with the presence of an organ to tie off the end of the song.

The title track is the most country-sounding of the lot, but in a Lady Antebellum ‘Need You Now’ kind of way. New Musical Express said ‘Lost Friends’ captures the harmonic style of Fleetwood Mac, a popular comparison among music reviewers. Triple J even said ‘Maryland’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Fleetwood album, but I’m still stuck on the similarity between Hannah’s voice and Dolores O’Riordan’s to bring Stevie Nicks’ into the equation.

To put it simply: every track is its own kind of anthem, with a song for every emotional state. It sounds most suited as the soundtrack for a long drive with no real destination, or for an indie coming-of-age film which, let’s face it, will have at least one scene featuring a long drive with no real destination.

I’ve loved Middle Kids ever since I saw them support my Lord and Saviour Paul Kelly at the Sydney Opera House last year, and their contagiously energetic stage presence is just another item to add to their already impressive musical resumé.

I recommend listening to Lost Friends immediately, be it on your train commute to your shitty grad job or the six-hour drive home to your small town for Mother’s Day. Either way, Lost Friends is a slick, amazingly written and brilliantly produced album, and gets 4.2 Fleetwood Mac references out of 5.

Middle Kids will be in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live on May 27th.