Hailing from the probably-not-well-known, Pikeville, KY; new indie-alternative band, Mirrored Image, recently released their sophomore album, Prisoner. Despite knowing nothing about them coming in, their aesthetic did spark immediate intrigue; as they mix brighter, 80’s imagery, with much edgier ones. Of course, being someone who enjoys both of these energies, I was very excited, albeit confused, to hear the product they were putting out.
Unsurprisingly, their musical style is very unique, and clashing (not in a bad way). Their continual use of synthesizers, with their more intense, emo/punk vocal style mirrors the differing parts of their aesthetic. Several of the instrumentals will begin to sound like old, 80’s synth-pop, but as they develop, the addition of electric guitars and juxtaposing dynamics change the feel completely. The end result: what I think a pop-punk band would’ve sounded like in the year 1985.
[Check out their bandcamp here]
Their first track, “Just Tell The Story,” opens up with very hard-hitting, attention-grabbing synths, before adding on a layer of harsh guitars along with it. Its vocal performance is very angry, and intense, adding another level of potency to it. It’s a great opening track, and one of the best on the album to me, because its energy is infectious, and the driving synths become very catchy as well. Because of all of this, the first impression this release gives is I think a positive one.
The next two tracks, “More,” and “Klingon War Dance,” are a bit less heavy, and fall more on the pop side of things, with more of a focus on relationships in the vocals. None of this makes the tracks inherently worse, but I do find the vocal and lyrical performances slightly less engaging. That being said, they’re still very enjoyable pieces. The small guitar solo featured in “More” is really nice, and reminds me a lot of the power-pop groups from the mid-80’s, back when guitar was a still a main feature in popular music. “Klingon War Dance” suffers from similar problems, and has similar strengths. The instrumental breaks are really soothing and smooth, but lyrically I’m not drawn in.
“Control,” the fourth song featured here, is probably the only one I’m entirely against. It almost immediately deviates from the unique themes and songs demonstrated thus far, being mostly just a hard, alternative rock jam. It brings back the anger I enjoyed, but without the surrounding parts that made it interesting to me, before. It’s on the verge of sounding like the generic, indie, dad-rock, just with a bit more energy sprinkled on in the form of another silky solo in the center.
“This Is It?” might just be the most unique of the tracks, with its usage of auto-tune, or electronic-vocals. I don’t know entirely how I feel about it, but it does sound a lot different, and it gives it almost a bit of a future-funk sound, which I certainly welcome. I don’t really love the chorus too much, and it’s often repeated, but I think the style it flaunts gives it enough to become a decent track overall.
The title track, “Prisoner,” is another one I’m not too keen on. Its synthesizers are certainly more prevalent and well-utilized than on “Control,” but it still doesn’t have enough of the driving, energetic, and dancable force behind it. It doesn’t quite become as generic, but sadly, the lack of clever lyricism grants a need for a more flashy instrumental performance to carry it, which it doesn’t have for me.
The final two songs, “Feel Better,” and “Girl Sox,” provide a pretty emotional end to the album. What might be my favorite track on the release, “Feel Better,” provides a much quieter and reserved beginning than most other songs. Its lyricism is actually good in my opinion, portraying someone dealing with many early-adult, existential issues, and dark, confusing thoughts about the world. before. I like the line “While all the maggots dance around.” Its best part, however, comes when this sadness fades into more of a victorious section, screaming “I am free when I’m on my own; I am free when I’m all alone.” Ironically, I think it might have one of the least enjoyable instrumentals, but the emotions put behind everything make it stand out above the other tracks, to me. The only negative thing I’d say about this track, is that I wish it was the album-ender, because I think it’d leave it off on a great, powerful note.
Let’s go to the album-ender then. Like I said, “Girl Sox” is another pretty passionate song. But sadly, the lyricism is once again lacking. It does mirror the more victorious-sounding sections from the last track, that give it a full and strong sound, but without the accompanying interest from the storytelling, I can’t say it’s as effective. If you swapped these two tracks though, I think it’d be less noticeable, because you’d be able to build up to the final, more-compelling song, instead of being met with a great lyrical setup, before coming back down again to end the release.
Due to their small, local, and DIY status, I was expecting their production to be sub-par, or at the very least, noticeably worse than most other professional releases; however, I’m excited to say it really isn’t. With great instrumental balance and mixing by John Chaney, it sounds just as good as anything else, from a mere production standpoint. Similarly, their instrumental prowess and songwriting ability is very impressive as well. Rather than focusing on mere lyricism, like several small projects, they’re able to provide skillful instrumentation, with some super catchy and enjoyable melodies. In fact, some of my favorite moments within the album are simply the breaks.
The only large fault on this album, to me, is the lyricism. I don’t find most of it compelling, or different from average pop or alternative projects. Some songs get repetitive with their over-use of choruses, and other just don’t have anything to say for themselves. Aside from my favorite tracks, which still don’t feature the world’s best storytelling, I think the pure musical aspects carry this release. Nothing is entirely wrong with that, per se, but it keeps it from being a really fantastic release. Their unique style brings them up above generic indie groups, but without something else propelling them ahead of the others, they may not be the ground-breaking successors they show the potential to be.
Overall, it’s a fantastic release for the place this group is in. For their second fully-original studio album, after having one merely two years ago, it has many strengths. And compared to their first album, I think it’s miles ahead of it; bringing forth a more original style, and more interesting pieces. The progress between the two, in my opinion, is astronomical. I’m feeling a 5.5/10 on this one, simply because it lacks in good lyricism, and I think there are a few awkward parts. The first instrumental break in “Just Tell The Story,” feels a little off to me for some reason. And there are some other small little kinks like that, that could easily be fixed. It is incredibly strong from the standpoint of their skill and production, I just don’t feel engaged in what’s being said at all 90% of the time. I do look forward to anything this group comes out with in the future, and I’d recommend a listen simply for the very weirdly-well-done style.
Favorite Track(s): “Just Tell The Story,” “Feel Better”
Least Favorite Track(s): “Control,” “Prisoner”