Review Summary: Ain't it grand?
I The Mighty is a special band. Their 2010 debut, We Speak, was a flawed but refreshing departure from the standard brand of radio-ready post hardcore that regularly clogs the genre’s airwaves. With that being said, it wasn't until 2013’s Satori that the quartet truly separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Boasting outstanding tracks including two of the year’s best songs, Failures
and Four Letter Words
, Satori was an unanticipated album of the year contender and a breakthrough record for the young band. Energized by this newfound success, I The Mighty wasted no time returning to the studio; just over two years later, Connector hit the shelves.
To be direct, Connector blows Satori out of the water in every conceivable way. Whereas a lack of variation was Satori’s only real flaw, one of Connector’s greatest strengths is the diversity between and within individual songs; no two tracks sound the same, and the album explores a variety of genres including indie pop, alternative rock, and post hardcore. This stylistic variation is made possible by an ample use of synthesizers, which were far less prominent (and often nonexistent) in I The Mighty’s previous work. Of course, excessive use of synth can either make or break an album (and fans of the band’s older material may find the occasionally drastic change in sound quite jarring at first), but repeated listens will illustrate the stunning degree to which the band’s progression paid off.
The first improved element that will likely stick out from the very first listen is the quality of Brent Walsh's vocal performance. Walsh has always had a powerful, somewhat unique voice, but he’s never sounded crisper or more in control than on Connector. The album’s opening track, An Epilogue As A Prologue
, is a perfect example of this, as Walsh smoothly delivers the haunting refrain of “we wait for a miracle once again” over minimal instrumental backing. The opener perfectly sets the stage for the bombastic Lady of Death
, one of the heavier songs Connector has to offer, which boasts the first example of Walsh’s screamed vocals. The chilling Slow Dancing Forever
, backed only by a minimal synth riff, is another standout vocal performance. Undeniable album highlight (No) Faith in Fate
even contains a semi-rapped bridge, which isn’t nearly as out of place as one might think. Additionally, (No) Faith in Fate
marks the return of female backing vocals, and much like Satori’s Four Letter Words
, they prove to be incredibly effective and serve as one of the album’s many highlights.
Even the songwriting, Satori’s greatest strength, hasn’t suffered one bit on Connector, and in many cases it could even be considered an improvement. For example, the aforementioned Slow Dancing Forever
is a lyrical goldmine.
Felt her hand on my shoulder as I locked the door,
Felt her tug on my coat just as I got on board.
Twenty thousand feet, felt the wing break,
Heard the captain's voice shake as he prayed.
The bridge of the politically-charged The Hound and the Fox
is another lyrical highlight, as well as the scathing religious criticism of Adrift
and the chilling cries of "Maybe I'm just meant to be alone" that bring No Faith in Fate
to a fittingly emotional conclusion.
Connector closes with The Frame I: Betrayal in the Watchtower
(Frames II and III were present in previous releases), and it serves as a culmination of everything that made the previous 11 tracks so memorable. It’s by far the heaviest song the album has to offer, though it begins with a slow, brooding exposition before really kicking off. And boy, does it kick off; Betrayal in the Watchtower
is the clear highlight of the album, and easily the best song I The Mighty have recorded to date. Boasting heavy, meaty riffing, another fantastic vocal performance courtesy of Brent Walsh, and the best chorus the album has to offer, it almost feels as if the band’s entire career up to this point has been leading up to this moment. “We wait for a miracle once again,” Walsh cries as it fades to silence, ending Connector just as it began.
I The Mighty is a special band, and Connector is a special album. Though not as immediately appealing as some of the group's previous work, it’s undeniably their best release as a whole, and the one that benefits most from repeated listens. Connector is a triumph in every imaginable way, and an enormous step forward for a young band with an enormous amount of potential.