Australian indie trio, Middle Kids, are releasing their new EP, New Songs for Old Problems, on May 24th via Domino. This EP comes off the back of their very successful debut album, Lost Friends, and starts off strong with its lead single “Real Thing”, which is nothing short of anthemic. Frontwoman, Hannah Joy, describes the single as “our lifelong quest for meaning”, which is definitely characterized by the lyrics as she opens with a wail, followed by woeful singing about mundane everyday life, chorussing with “Don’t it ever make you feel sad, is this the real thing?… Are you like me? Do you lie awake thinking, is this the real thing?”. Although emotional through lyrics, it’s less so in production. Joy’s nostalgic voice is complemented by the folk-inspired alt-rock that drives the song’s message of lost time and dreams home.
With a name like New Songs for Old Problems, nostalgia is obviously the central focus of the album. The album art showcases a plant littered with objects like a coffee cup, a phone, a cigarette, alcohol, and religious memorabilia. All objects can be described as having some sort of negative connotation to problems and habits. The plant represents growth, however, the plastic plant is deceptive – masking the idea of growing on from old problems and ideas.
The EP’s opening track, “Beliefs and Prayers”, also indicates stubborn, stagnant thinking with “we accept our beliefs and prayers if you don’t agree you can sit over there”. So what do the new songs do if they are for old problems? Not a lot apparently. Middle Kids show some self-awareness about this with Joy knowingly singing “we exist with a conscious air” – in this context the songs may as well be old. Although it’s not all doom and gloom, because sometimes “there are rules that you just gotta break, we are gonna give you a little but then we’re just gonna take” showing the risk-taking, playful side of the EP.
“Call Me Snowflake” is delicate, which is fitting considering a “snowflake” is a political insult for someone deemed “too sensitive”. Joy sings the words “see I’m a snowflake, slowly floating, I’m not joking” with such determination that the derogatory meanings of being a snowflake melt away. Joy carries on this support while there’s some gentle guitar strumming in the background, “know your worth it is not your work and they will give you nothing, they will give you nothing”. Big Softy follows suit, only with a bolder sound that comes with an unassuming harder edge, almost in support of the snowflake.
Middle Kids understand that old habits die-hard and sometimes all you want is a new song to illustrate an old problem. Their sound is as eclectic as ever, showing them to throw fun at their sensitivity while remaining grounded in their folk-inspired alt-rock soundscape.