Record Of The Week: ‘Today We’re The Greatest’ By Middle Kids

About The Record

Artist: Middle Kids
Project: Today We’re The Greatest

Adulthood comes at you fast. On Today, We’re The Greatest, the Australian band Middle Kids wrestles with that uneasy transition, that breakneck collision of hope, regret and practicality. It’s just the trio’s second album, with an EP between releases, but the real sophomore struggle here isn’t with following up a beloved debut—they have no trouble maintaining musical quality—but with confronting what it means to “grow up.”

Written and sung by front woman Hannah Joy, breakthrough single “R U 4 Me?” sees the lead character judging the world and herself in equal measure. She starts the day eating cake and shouting at “everyone to be nice when I’m not even nice myself,” unsure how to create connection on her quest for everything to “be right,” though she admits she doesn’t know “what that’d be like.” Throughout the record, Joy doesn’t lean on irony, instead reaching for the kind of direct, emotional connection that may one day make her a go-to co-writer for Music Row publishers.

All of the songwriting and most of the recording was completed before the pandemic, but the lyrics’ recurring themes of uncertainty, isolation and nostalgia arrive at a time when much of the world is working through those same issues. Nostalgia is front and center during the standout “Some People Stay In Our Hearts Forever.” Joy looks back on a broken relationship and sees the now-obvious causes at the root of its dysfunction: “I wanted to love you, but I didn’t know how. I’m so sorry.” If you’re young, there’s a chance you’ll hear this as a cheap, throwaway line in a pleasing mid-tempo pop song. If you’ve reached the age when photos of old friends can send you into a melancholic spiral, the way Joy sends the phrase “I’m so sorry” soaring into the ether, it can be a devastating listen.

Musically, the album balances the group’s subdued, singer-songwriter side with energetic rhythms and rolling guitars. On the song “Summer Hill,” Tim Fitz, Joy’s husband and bandmate, shows off his production skills, plucking sounds from different eras — Kate Bush-like ‘80s beats, loping ‘90s indie guitars, atmospheric ‘00s synth-pop — and combining them into something new. The band, rounded out by drummer Harry Day, is categorized as indie in the U.S., but Middle Kids’ music really exists in an alternate universe, where pop hooks and relatable lyrics presented as rock can still make it into the mainstream.