Sound — 8
Bearing a compositional mentality similar to Circa Survive and Thrice, I The Mighty knew they wanted to make post-hardcore as much as they wanted to stretch that root style into covering other territories. After displaying that emphasis on multi-directional growth rather than one-dimensional focus in their debut EP, "Hearts and Spades," the band was picked up by Equal Vision Records to expand further. With I The Mighty's first release under the label continuing to dabble with their sound, the synth-spiked EP "Karma Never Sleeps," their debut album, "Satori," would be primarily tasked with laying the post-hardcore groundwork for the band. "Satori" may have been more contained in terms of its sound, but the attention towards cultivating the band's conventional qualities brought forth an exemplary statement of the band's instrumental skills.
With that sonic foundation established, I The Mighty's follow-up album, "Connector," concerns itself with polishing the band's progressive-minded post-hardcore style. With a major reinvestment in synth elements, the band shows more elaboration in their songwriting, from wielding smoother sections to counterweight their aggressive post-hardcore sound (like the ambient section in "Lady of Death," and the bridge of "(No) Faith in Fate") to upgrading their textural aspects (like the IDM-esque production behind the breakdown of "Adrift," and the throbbing layers in the verses of "Andrew's Song"). This accentuation on textures also prompts more ingenuity from the guitars, like the delayed guitar plucks that form a passive rhythmic/melodic layer in "Playing Catch With. 22," and the deeply-filtered guitar noises that make a shoegaze-esque intro and outro for "Andrew's Song."
The band also attempt to use synth melodies to seamlessly segue from song to song a la progressive rock linearity, which is heard throughout the first stretch of the album, but is lazily dropped later on. Moreover on the downside to this added aural ingredient are the cases in which its toes the line of overdose. While the jittery drum machine beats that drive the verses of "Friends" make a good substitute to Blake Dahlinger's exceptional drumming skill, the synthetic treble added on top of the chorus in "Playing Catch With. 22" is excessive, and the emo pop ballad "Slow Dancing Forever" feels more like an off-kilter Owl City rip-off than a captivating detour from the band's metal sound.
Despite those synth elements being a focal point in "Connector," I The Mighty's instrumental work is still top-notch (see the drumming of "Psychomachia," the intriguing basslines in "Andrew's Song" and "(No) Faith in Fate," the guitar activity in "Playing Catch With. 22" and "The Frame I: Betrayal in the Watchtower"). With those conventional band elements not requiring more cultivation, it's actually frontman Brent Walsh's voice that's shows the most growth throughout the album, administering more falsetto moments (heard in "Friends," "Andrew's Song" and "The Frame I: Betrayal...") as well as brandishing his harsh vocals more often, further intensifying heavy songs like "Psychomachia" and "Adrift."
Lyrics — 7
For the most part, Walsh is still drawing his lyrical fuel from his primary wells of inspiration. Walsh continues to dig through heartache and past relationships, and while a couple cases hit, like the shy and unrequited love between friends in "Playing Catch With. 22" and the hopelessness of "(No) Faith in Fate" essentially being a sequel to the narrative laid out in the previous album track "Four Letter Words," other cases miss, like the fatal attraction of "The Lying Eyes of Miss Erray" anchored on a facepalm-inducing pun (not to mention that the idea was done by The Dear Hunter first, to equally cheesy avail). Walsh also continues his penchant for writing about sociopolitical issues, and though he only touches upon that topic broadly in "Psychomachia" (the only direct line being "Hey, give me a reason not to cause some unrest / Tell the press, stop your checks 'til you're homeless") and the post-modernity critique of "Adrift" ("How many moments you've missed in a room full of friends / Just staring down at that screen? Yeah, I'm guilty of all of it"), "The Hound and The Fox" manages to be a standout effort, being a subtle but vitriolic shot at the crooked and misleading practices of Fox News.
"Slow Dancing Forever" holds a wide margin for being the lyrical highlight of "Connector," where Walsh paints a scene of someone the night before going to his former girlfriend's funeral, bearing his grief and wrestling between accepting her death and continuing to dream about himself still with her in blissful denial, easily being the most emotionally-gripping set of lyrics Walsh has ever written. Walsh also completes the backtracking, discography-spanning story of "The Frame" series, finally bringing forth the first chronological piece of the story with "The Frame I: Betrayal...," but despite the elongated investment of time, the micro-concept fails to compel in its totality.
Overall Impression — 8
Calling back to the earlier years of the band's penchant for tinkering with their sound, "Connector" takes that endeavor further for I The Mighty, bringing forth healthy growth for the band's sonic repertoire. Though not every bit of sound deviation on the album flies successfully, and the additional production elements may not be welcomed by those that loved "Satori" for being a conventional post-hardcore powerhouse, the general style of I The Mighty doesn't stray too far from its home range for the better. With the likely possibility of I The Mighty gearing up for their revelatory album soon (their equivalent to "Vheissu" or "Violent Waves," per se), "Connector" makes for a substantial stepping stone to that next level they're aspiring to reach.