ALBUM REVIEW: Middle Kids – Today We’re the Greatest

Middle Kids’ recent release Today We’re the Greatest is better produced than their first work Lost Friends, but there’s not much deviation here in terms of style, and the song structures are unvarying, causing the album to blend into itself.

The album’s opener ‘Bad Neighbours’ is an interesting albeit slow start, an acoustic piece which doesn’t go anywhere, but it does evoke a melancholy feel of wide-open vistas, which can be heard later in the album. This is a matter of placement, as I feel it would have worked better as a less-pronounced song deeper in the album.

However, its follow-up, pre-release single ‘Cellophane (Brain)’, is one of the pop anthems on the album, with acoustic elements soon accompanied by drums, guitars and a generally fuller atmosphere. It does feel a little too full at times though, as instruments drown each other out.

‘R U 4 Me?’ is also a good pop anthem, though again it does suffer from an inundation of sounds towards the end, where each member should be allowed their space to shine and breathe. Also, the titling seems contrived.

In ‘Questions’ a pattern of song structures emerges where there should be some variation, which is why it’s confusing that they chose ‘Bad Neighbours’ as the opener. It’s a good song though, which brings in various instruments with a suitable pace, including brass which lends itself well to the piece. It’s also the third song in a row which was also a single, which again suggests that the album’s layout was not developed enough.

‘Lost in Los Angeles’ and ‘Golden Star’ both return to this evocative melancholy which is the most unique emotion conjured by the album, producing images of Californian wilderness and the (failed) American Dream. Again though, they are slow and don’t build to anything, which would be okay if it weren’t for their placement beside each other.

‘Summerhill’ is a consistently great song, since it grabs this melancholy and rides with it into the territory of the pop-anthem, without teetering too much into it. Instruments have more room to breathe here, but still not enough, as the synth becomes overbearing.

‘Some People Stay in Our Hearts Forever’, ‘Run With You’, and ‘I Don’t Care’ are three very similar songs. Still good, but the song structure is worn by here (instrumental around the one-minute mark on the latter two for example), and I’m left wanting something different. (Again – album layout would help here!) ‘Stacking Chairs’ is okay, but it sounds the same as the others too, with nothing particularly interesting to offer.

The title track and closer ‘Today We’re the Greatest’ offers a sense of hope in its themes and is definitely more effective than the album’s opener. This one has movement and a climax but does get repetitive.

In all, Middle Kids’ newest album is pretty good. Some of the songs are interesting and experiment with different instruments, but generally follow exactly the same structure, blending into each other. Album layout is also not appropriate, since similar-paced songs neighbour, and further this blending. Despite this, the melancholy openness of some of the songs is evocative, and the singles are standout pop anthems.

You can listen to Middle Kids’ new album on Spotify here, or Bandcamp here.

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James Ward

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May 2022
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