Middle Kids, Vegyn + more: our five favourite records of the week

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Middle Kids, Vegyn + more: our five favourite records of the week

Words by Will Brewster

Explore the freshest sounds of the week.

Friday is here, which means it’s release day for a bunch of artists at home and around the world. With so many hot releases out there to tuck into, we’ve compiled some of the best to present to you for the weekend.

Today, we’re spotlighting the latest full-length from Sydney indie darlings Middle Kids, as well as an immersive new EP from Frank Ocean collaborator Vegyn, the latest from late night musical wunderkind Jon Batiste, the 60th (!!!!) full-length from country legend Loretta Lynn and a kooky new EP from System of a Down’s Serj Tankian.

This week’s hot picks:

  • Middle Kids – Today We’re The Greatest 
  • Vegyn – Like A Good Old Friend EP
  • Jon Batiste – We Are
  • Loretta Lynn – Still Woman Enough 
  • Serj Tankian – Elasticity EP 

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Middle Kids – Today We’re The Greatest 

Almost five years on from taking the music world by storm with their enchanting debut single ‘Edge Of Town’, Sydney trio Middle Kids have returned in fine form with their second studio album Today We’re The Greatest. It marks a huge leap from the band’s 2018 debut LP, and undoubtedly asserts the trio as one of Australia’s best bands today thanks to its intelligent production and courageous songwriting.

Kicking off with the slow-burner ‘Bad Neighbours’, Today We’re The Greatest really kicks off with the one-two punch of ‘Cellophane (Brain)’ and ‘R U 4 Me?’, with jaunty guitars and upbeat drums adding brevity to Hannah Joy’s turbulent lyrics. The combination of intimate hand-claps and triumphant horns makes for a killer contrast on ‘Questions’ – which also features one of the most dynamic choruses on the record – while the spacious ‘Summer Hill’ showcases the rhythmic abilities of Tim Fitz and Harry Day wonderfully.

With a back half bolstered by cuts like ‘Run With You’ and ‘Stacking Chairs’, Today We’re The Greatest bows out in magnificent fashion on its anthemic title track; a ballad of immense proportions that demonstrates Joy’s tremendous vocal range and her fast-developing lyricism. It encapsulates everything that makes Middle Kids the national treasures they are, and we can’t wait to hear how it sounds on the road.

Vegyn – Like A Good Old Friend EP

Vegyn is a UK-based electronic producer best known for his prominent contributions to Frank Ocean’s historic 2016 releases Endless and Blonde. This new EP, Like A Good Old Friend, marks his first release of the year, and seeks to usher in a new era for the idiosyncratic producer, introducing new sounds and ideas to his ever-growing box of tricks.

‘Like A Good Old Friend’ combines a ghostly pedal steel sample with a surging breakbeat and modular bloops to make for one of the EP’s most magnetic moments, while Jeshi’s processed vocals prove to be a highlight of opening track ‘I See You Sometimes.’

‘B4 The Computer Crash’ sees Vegyn dabble with a four-to-the-floor kick and a euphoric, glitching lead, which carries over and fizzles out into ambient bliss on the next track ‘Mushroom Abolitionist’ before making somewhat of a return on closer ‘Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Ruining Songs’. Once again, Vegyn continues to show why he’s one of the most unique producers operating today.

Jon Batiste – We Are

Best known for his role as band leader on the Stephen Colbert Show, Jon Batiste is one hell of an instrumentalist and arranger. He’s just won a Golden Globe for his work on the score of Pixar’s latest hit Soul, and now, he’s unveiled his new album We Are: a sprawling, collaborative affair that demonstrates his prodigal talents.

Commissioning the assistance of 200 different musicians for the project – including Mavis Staples and Quincy Jones – We Are is overflowing with ideas, yet never loses sonic direction or feels mish-mashed. ‘Tell The Truth’ is about as authentic a slice of old school soul you could ever get in 2021, with nasal horns and a stomping rhythm providing a bedrock for Batiste’s vocals to let loose. ‘I Need You’ sees Batiste and co. deliver a fast-paced swing number, while the hip-hop inspired ‘Boy Hood’ is capped off with a ludicrous solo from the legendary Trombone Shorty.

Elsewhere, We Are ventures into neo-soul territory on the irresistibly groovy ‘Adulthood’, with ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘Freedom’ making sure the party burns hot towards the end of the record. An impressive outing from one of the most talented musicians on the current late night circuit.

Loretta Lynn – Still Woman Enough 

Loretta Lynn is a legendary presence in country music. She’s released no less than 60 albums over her career, and even as she approaches her 89th birthday next month, is still just as sharp as she’s ever been, with her 46th solo effort Still Woman Enough acting both as a tribute to her legacy and a reminder of just how talented she is.

Offering a mixture of newly recorded tracks and reinterpretations of songs from her expansive back catalogue, Still Woman Enough features contributions from Lynn’s daughter Patsy Lynn Russel and John Carter Cash, and opts for a classic palate of twangy guitars, crisp vocal harmonies and hushed bluegrass instrumentation. ‘Keep on the Sunny Side’ sees Lynn put a fresh spin on an Americana classic, while ‘Honky Tonk Girl’ – a remake of Lynn’s debut single, released way back in March 1960 – boasts some spellbinding pedal steel guitar and an impassioned vocal performance, making for one of the album’s best cuts.

While it’ll be country fans who’ll get the biggest kick out of Still Woman Enough, there’s enough substance and charming songwriting on here to convert any causal listener, and at the end of the day, it’s still crystal clear that Lynn rules the roost.

Serj Tankian – Elasticity EP 

System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian has today shared Elasticity; a collection of five tracks that functions as his first solo release since 2013’s Orca. It’s jam-packed with offbeat vocal theatrics, genre-bending instrumentation and politically potent lyricism, and while slightly bizarre at times, upholds Tankian’s status as one of the most distinctive voices in modern alternative.

The EP’s title track – an odd concoction of electronica and alt-rock – makes for an intriguing introduction to the project, while the chugging drop-tuned guitars and bounding vocal performance of ‘Your Mom’ sounds like it could have been retrieved from the cutting room floor of a System of a Down writing session.

‘How Many Times?’ and ‘Rumi’ both opt for a sound that combines soft pianos with driving metal guitars, while Tankian chants his way to the finish line with the rocking, arpeggiator-drenched ‘Electric Yerevan’. This one might be a bit confusing for some, but we reckon SOAD fans will love it.

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