Review Summary: I the Mighty stay the course Satori set them on and give us their most accessible album yet, but no songwriting skills have been sacrificed in the process.
Since I The Mighty’s little known (and now unobtainable via legal outlets) debut album in 2010, they’ve transformed from a thoughtful little pop punk outfit to one of Equal Vision’s heavy hitters, getting their own headlining tour this summer instead of tagging along on Warped Tour. Their meteoric rise isn’t something just caused by good marketing and PR – it’s been through sheer talent, legitimate emotional connections, and word-of-mouth recommendation. Vocalist Brent Walsh is a powerhouse full of feelings and likability, and he’s quite a force: it’s not every day that a label throws a considerable amount of support behind a solo album from a vocalist with a band that has only a few releases (as occurred last year with Walsh’s 7
), but he’s just that talented and his group is simply just that well-liked.
It’s not really a huge surprise then that Connector
is a good, solid record. It retains the more complex post-hardcore elements that were present on Satori
, but focuses and builds more on the simpler, melodic side of that sound. It’s also suitably diverse, finding the band arranging an array of related styles and stamping them with their signature sound. Hardcore is represented on “Adrift”, a song that lyrically embodies the title of the record – Walsh admirably “won’t give it up until we all, we all are one” – and has a more aggressive feel that fits the serious tone. “Slow Dancing Forever” is a pop number complete with electronic percussion and backing synths, but is designed to be more introspective and spacy than upbeat or dance-worthy. Say Anything’s Max Bemis is featured on “Friends”, a post-hardcore/rock song with densely layered instrumentation and a hypnotizing verse, a charismatic chorus, and an electrifying bridge that wisely utilizes its chosen talent.
“The Frame I: Betrayal in the Watchtower” is the closing number: the final piece of a trilogy of songs that the band has interestingly chosen to release in reverse order (“The Frame III” was featured on Karma Never Sleeps
, and “The Frame II” was on Satori
). It’s an epic track, starting slow but building up to something bombastic, and eventually reintroducing melodies from the opening track of the album and lyrical themes from the “upcoming” songs in “The Frame” series, bringing both the story and the record to a satisfying conclusion. Lyrics for the record in general are more diverse; while Satori
was unapologetically a breakup record and not too much else, Connector
returns to dealing with all sorts of topics, such as betrayal, world peace, and fun, scathing critiques of various other people. Walsh’s heartfelt breakup lyrics were relatable, well-written, and touching, but it’s good to get back to seeing him write about many other topics.
The production here is beautiful, with mixing and mastering being handled by veteran Kris Crummett and production itself done by Mike Green. Guitars are huge, bass is easily audible, and Brent sits exactly where he needs to in the mix. All of this lends itself to an atmospheric, larger-than-life sound that sucks you in like a black hole, and is very necessary for this style of pop-influenced post-hardcore. Working with this sort of polish is dangerous, but Crummett and Green never overstep their boundaries, opting to create something incredible and immersive instead of obnoxious.
I the Mighty aren’t afraid of making their sound more marketable – Connector
is the band’s most accessible record yet, though given the catchiness of their back catalogue that might not exactly be saying much. It’s also the group’s most diverse, featuring bursts of pop, post-hardcore, “normal” hardcore, pop punk, rock, and hell, even a bit of soul with the way Walsh works his voice. The songs are slightly more subtle than the ones on Satori
, so it may take a few listens before you’re able to resonate with them, but before long you’ll be singing along to every track. Connector
is an addicting album that won’t easily find its way out of your rotation, and it deserves to propel I The Mighty to even further levels of stardom.