Middle Kids have released their second single of the year, “Highlands”.
A striking example of what has made the indie rock trio so formidable over the last few years, “Highlands” pares Hannah Joy’s mildly euphoric vocals with tight instrumentation.
It’s the band’s second track to be produced by Jonathan Gilmore, who brings his experience working with the likes of the 1975 and beabadoobee to the recording.
According to Joy, “Highlands” pays tribute to her Scottish background. “Since I was young, I’ve had this yearning to be free,” she says. “I used an image of the ‘highlands’ as a euphoric place where I have the space to be me, and you have the space to be you.
“Part of the imagery comes from my Scottish heritage, which my grandmother was always proud of. I recorded some big slow piano chords which Tim (Fitz) mangled into the atmospheric hits in the intro.”
“Highlands” comes with a music video – directed by Toby Morris – that captures the stunning beauty of the New South Wales highlands surrounding Jindabyne. The memorable clip features stunt driving, helicopters, horses, motorcycles, and even the Southern Hemisphere’s largest car-wrecking yard.
As for the track’s sound, Joy explains that they had two competing visions in mind. “When we finished the song with Jon in the UK, he thought it was important that the song felt punky, like a bunch of teenagers practicing in their garage.
“So, there are these two energies fighting it out – the constricted energy of the domestic space and the wide, open energy of the Highlands. We have a friend who called this kind of music ‘yearncore.’ It’s that impatient energy that says, ‘I can’t keep waiting, I need a change.'”
“Highlands” follows Middle Kids’ first single of 2023, the more mellow “Bootleg “Firecracker”. The band last released an album in 2021, when Today We’re the Greatest won Best Rock Album at the 2021 ARIA Awards.
“Their second full-length album, Today We’re The Greatest is one of the most powerful entries in the Middle Kids discography so far,” Rolling Stone AU/NZ wrote in a positive review at the time.