Analogue Music | Middle Kids - Lost Friends
Lost Friends

Lost Friends

Artist: Middle Kids · Written by Scott Elingburg

Date Released

4 May, 2018


Domino Recording Company


39 minutes

I’ve wanted to write about Middle Kids for months now. But the words just weren’t there.

That’s no legitimate excuse, I know, I know. But the truth is, right now, Middle Kids first full-length album, Lost Friends, is my favorite record of the year. We’re closing in on the last quarter of 2018 and I don’t see a challenger on the horizon coming on to knock it out. (I want to be wrong, though.)

Lost Friends will put you through the ringer in the most cathartic, way possible. The Sydney-based trio is a pure, cinematic expression of emotional damage, the obliteration of irony, and the ultimate redemption of empathy and connection amongst human beings. It’s not an immediate attention-getter and, in spite of its occasionally immediate melodies that grab your ears, you have to let the nuance of Lost Friends unfold over time, piece by delicate piece. Their brand of musical honesty isn’t meant to be consumed in one large choking gulp. In fact, I had to work my way up to listening to the whole record. It works—and even sounds a bit better on occasion—to take in two or three songs at a time.

The trio of opening songs were the first that cycled through my head, primarily, the exquisite dissection of darkness in the opening salvo of “Bought It”:

My friend / I need a little help / to fend / the darkness at the end / of all this / I thought that I had fought it / but like clockwork it seems keep on coming

I should note that these are the opening lines of the entire album; an album that begins by asking for help to fight off a recurring, creeping blackness. If there is a more emotionally vulnerable moment that opens any record of the last few years, I’ll put this this song up against it. Not only does it set the tone for Lost Friends but this thread, this trembling notion of loss and a decimating lack of strength, slides in song after song. It’s in the verses and chorus of “Mistake” (“thought I was healthy but I’m choking” and “you got a debt to pay back / for something you did way back”), the isolation of the setting in “Maryland,” the bravado of the titular track (“lonely is the sound / when the truth hits the ground / I lost all my friends that day”), and the falsetto jump of the crystalline melody on “Tell Me Something.” Throw a rock and you’ll hit your new favorite part in Lost Friends, never mind your favorite song. They are all your favorite songs.

Middle Kids
Middle Kids

If all the album had going for it was Hannah Joy’s confident, intricate lyrics and melodies it would be enough to justify twelve tracks of her singing solo at a piano. But the music takes every track to it highest point and keeps it there for the long haul. The pedal steel that backs the chorus in “Edge of Town” sends it over the top; it’s subtle but clear, like a birdsong at sunrise. The rattle of the bass that sets the tone for “Tell Me Something” and the forceful piano buildup that caps off the final song, “So Long Farewell I’m Gone,” all start as a seed but fully bloom within the span of three minutes. And, my personal favorite, the quiet, barely-there pluck of the banjo strings in the breakdown of “Bought It” when Joy sings, “this must be the memory / when you took that photograph of me / don’t act so embarrassed / we all do dumb things when we’re lonely.” Be still my bruised yet still-beating heart.

Middle Kids are expert conveyers of our most brittle emotions. All of us, not matter who we are, are lonely, embarrassed, struggling, and desperate, all in our own ways. We could all do with a little solidarity, which might help to explain Middle Kids rising popularity and their easy connection with audiences across the globe. We’ve spent plenty of time crying for the death of irony, sarcasm, and anger, but Middle Kids have put that notion to rest on Lost Friends.

One final sentiment: As a middle kid, I wear the title like a bloody badge of honor. It's an identifier that feels violently personal to me. Middle children are peacemakers, thoughtful, emotional bridges that strive for stasis and harmony and I’m no different; I still long for empathy and affection for everyone, sometimes at the expense of those around me. So, I don’t think Middle Kids chose their name lightly. Every move the band makes and puts out feels and sounds intentional, not some tossed-off half-baked notion of musical posturing. And, honestly, if all this band ever puts out is Lost Friends, it is enough. But I hope for much more. And I think we all should. That’s still a powerful notion, even if it’s no longer a popular one.