The latest album from San Francisco Bay Area alt-rockers I the Mighty has just been released today. Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let It Go is the band’s third full-length from Equal Vision Records, following their 2013 album Satori and 2015’s Connector.
While the album is a completely new direction for the band, it might be their best yet. They’ve largely left behind their heavy post-hardcore Warped Tour sound in favor of a softer, poppier, and often dancier one. Yet the raw emotion felt throughout the 11-song release is undeniable, and absolutely beautiful, if not more than a little heart-wrenching at times. They’ve proven that they can do any sound or genre well, and it’s only a matter of time before I the Mighty becomes a household name.
Frontman Brent Walsh saw end to a years long on-and-off relationship for what might be the final time while writing this album, and it’s clear all he was feeling came out through the songwriting process. One of the most emotional songs from Connector, “Andrew’s Song,” was written for the ex in question, alluding to her dog, Andrew. “But now we’re on our own. I’m only missing you so much. I lose control of where my thoughts go til you’re someone I don’t know.” Between Connector and Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let It Go, the two got back together for the better part of a year, leading to a new version of “Andrew’s Song” on the band’s Oil in Water EP, which reimagined 5 songs from Connector. “No longer on our own. I’m gone but missing you so much. I lose control of where my thoughts go til I’m there with you back home.”
“I feel like the universe has decided for me that at the beginning of the writing process for every new I the Mighty record, whatever relationship I’m in has to come to an end,” Walsh said of Connector. The same seems to ring true of Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let It Go, and maybe unfortunately for his sake, his heartbreak leads to some really amazing and relatable songs. (Side note: Walsh still gets to spend plenty of time with Andrew these days, despite the relationship ending yet again.)
I fell in love with the first track, “Degenerates,” upon first listen, making it hard for me to listen to the rest of the album right away. I played it at least a dozen times in a row before deciding I needed to hear the full thing. That’s a good problem to have, and I’ve always believed it to be a sign of a really good album. I was not disappointed, yet “Degenerates” may still be my favorite track.
The song centers on finding your place, and it was more than likely written for Walsh’s friends from Burning Man. My favorite line from the entire album comes from this song: “I hear the Matches playing from the other room.” The Matches have been one of my all-time favorite bands for 11 years, and they’re one of Walsh’s as well. Jon Devoto, the Matches’ guitarist, is one of those friends from Burning Man, so a direct reference makes sense, but it caught me so off guard I wasn’t sure if that’s what I was hearing at first. Hearing one band I love reference another makes me so incredibly happy.
“Degenerates” ends with a chord progression similar to one in a Connector song, “(No) Faith in Fate,” but rather than screaming “Maybe I’m just meant to be alone!” Walsh sings “I think I’ve found my place.” It’s beautiful and enough to give me feels right off the bat.
Following “Degenerates” is “Pet Names,” a poppier song and the first on the album dealing with heartbreak. “I’m waking up sideways, laying in the driveway, trying to forget the thought of you. I’m drowning my sorrow, even though it’s hollow, taking tequila shots at noon.” We’ve all been there. The band played an acoustic version of the song at the album’s release party in Los Angeles a few nights ago, which was met by a great reception of fans excited to hear the official version.
“Chaos in Motion” was the second of three singles the band released in the weeks leading up to the album. It was a little divisive among fans, but it’s the kind of song meant to attract a larger audience, including radio play. It’s probably the most different song on Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let It Go as compared to I the Mighty’s earlier music, with its dance vibe and no sign of that previously heavy sound at all. It’s only natural for bands to experiment with new sounds throughout their career, and I honestly love this song. It’s a good different, and their infuriating video for the song went viral across social media almost immediately.
One of the title tracks, “Where the Mind Wants to Go,” was the third single, and is the heaviest track on the album. While Satori was filled with screams, “Where the Mind Wants to Go” is the only song on this album with even one instance of a scream: “I would love you even if we’re just energy!” It’s a nice reminder that they’re still the same I the Mighty that fans fell in love with years ago.
Following the title track comes “Symphony of Skin,” a song you can guess by the title is largely about sex. This is probably my least favorite track on the album, which says a lot considering I still love the song.
Another of my favorites, however, is “Sleepwalker,” a soft yet powerful song about realizing your relationship might not be enough. I can’t help but wonder if there’s any relation to an earlier I the Mighty hit, “The Dreamer.” Musically they don’t seem related, but between the titles and lyrics of both songs focusing heavily on love and “waking up,” I wouldn’t be too surprised.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the opening guitar riffs of “Escapism,” but it turns out to be a very melodic, dancey, poppy song. It’s a lot of fun and another of my favorites from the album.
It’s followed by another dancey track, “111 Winchester,” which is storytelling at its finest, void of a chorus. A group of friends break into an abandoned house to party, only to find that it’s haunted. “Not sure where this hallway ends or my sanity begins. Where the hell are all my friends? There were 6 when we walked in.” My first thought upon seeing the name of the song was that it had some relation to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA, a supposedly haunted tourist spot not far from the I the Mighty boys’ homes. It’s also likely that the song was inspired by the hit Netflix series Stranger Things.
While many songs on the album deal with the pain of ending a relationship, “The Sound of Breathing” is one of the more heart-wrenching. Between the repetition of “If that’s the way it’s gotta be with us, then be aware I’m falling apart,” and “Is this the end of us?” my heart can’t handle all the feels. It’s painfully relatable to anyone who’s gone through a tough break-up.
“Silver Tongues” was the first single, which dropped without any warning on the same day as the album announcement just over a month ago. It features guest vocals by Tilian Pearson, current vocalist of Dance Gavin Dance, and is one of the heavier tracks. I think it has one of the most positive messages as well, with lyrics like “Never again will I spend all the precious time that I have left on those who oppose anyone doing what they love.” It’s definitely a banger, and caught my attention from the first listen.
The album closes with the latter of the two title tracks, “Where You Let It Go.” It’s a much softer song, but calls back to that scream in “Where the Mind Wants to Go,” with the repetition of “I would love you even if we’re just energy.” Tying the two songs together is a fantastic way to wrap up the album, and the emotion just kills me. It’s so real and beautifully heartbreaking.
There have been a few other albums this year that have caught my attention, but after listening to little else for the past week, Where the Mind Wants to Go/Where You Let It Go is a serious contender for album of the year for me. Saying I’m absolutely in love with it is an understatement. I highly recommend checking it out.