Mighty Brother’s Fourth Album ‘Azimuth’ Transports The Hero Myth Into The Modern Day

Mighty Brother band

From the start of the first track “Every Drop of Moonlight,” it’s clear that Azimuth is not a collection of singles, but is, in fact, a concept album. From the first line of the song “Found a note that you inscribed ‘to my dearest friend and student, I bid you adieu” you know that you are in for a tale. The bright guitar punctuated by grooving bass and rhythmic percussion with conga, clave, shaker, and more build the nautical soundscape of the track. Huster croons the story of a character setting out to “find themselves” and relates it to celestial and nautical imagery, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Lines like “your silhouette, guiding with the strength of fair polaris” shine through before the song drops into an expansive bridge complete with Kirkman’s impressive and breezy guitar tapping, and a superbly tasteful saxophone which establishes itself as a core voice in Mighty Brother’s sound, and one which delights throughout the album.  

In the narrative of the concept album, “Weighed Down” tells of when the protagonist is first setting out. They are having all sorts of internal doubts that are presented in the choral vocal chants in the intro and mid-point of the song. They ask “Lord have mercy, can I shake this dream?” The character is “weighed down” by expectations, social norms, external opinions, etc. and finally breaks free singing “Farewell familiarity, Falling away from my wings.” The composition of the song backs this story wonderfully, jumping smoothly between a broody borderline prog-rock chorus that makes way for bright vocals with a grooving backbeat in the verses. Kirkman’s vocals soar through the end of the track, their vocal power and control conjuring visions of Jeff Buckley.


Takes the protagonist out to sea with cheery and almost jazzy verses that break like waves into surf-rock choruses. Complete with vocal chants “Ovah-Tu-Mawai,” and a minor backbeat bridge section, the song covers a lot of musical ground. Finally erupting into a phenomenal climax near the end with long held notes that would make Bill Withers proud, a raucous underlying djembe pattern, and melody accents from harmonized saxophones. The lyrics of the song weave images of lighthouses, candles, diamonds, the moon,  and many other bright and shiny things that may lead you on, or possibly lead you astray, at the beginning of an adventure. “Ovah-Tu-Mawai” could be the name of a mythical island, or could simply be a mondegreen of “over to my way,” but either way it beckons the listener onward. Taken alone, this song stands out for its catchy melodies, and theme of pursuing your dreams and seeking love, but in the context of the album it reaches new heights as it thrusts the protagonist out into the open world!

“Midnight Moon” surprises with one heck of an instrumental earworm. Buttressed by another auxiliary percussion led groove, the saxophone and guitar trade bars to weave a jovial melody over 16 measures, before breaking to allow space for the lyrics. Huster begins breathily “found myself in a novel night” before the instruments return and press the song forward. The song remains almost light and dancey throughout, which serves to juxtapose the otherwise challenging subject matter. “Time will tell you, that the world moves on with or without you… let the world move on with or without you” – the narrator feels lost, unsure if they are where they should be, or of what is to come. The instrumental hook plays again, the protagonist “comes to” with the coming of morning, and perhaps faces their challenges head on. The song reflects some of the listlessness many people, and artists especially, may have felt over the past couple years… maybe the pandemic is the novel night? But still the world keeps spinning? It’s left open for interpretation, but the sentiment is definitely one of somber reflection. 

“Azimuth” is both the title track and one of the stand out tracks from the album. Sternberg’s leading bass line carves the way and is accented by beautifully airy vocals, sparse guitar, and tasteful Rhodes organ pads. After an RNB-esque bridge that plays on the “sexy sax man” trope and features packed harmony lines, the song builds into a shredding synth solo courtesy of featured New Orleans musician Rob Kellner. Kirkman sings “You’re a star, you’re a star rising up, Azimuth! Baby, you got this!” And you feel at once empowered and endeared to the album as a whole: a fantastic choice for a title track that stands on its own and as a support beam for the rest of the work.

Mighty Brother band performing

“Normal Seas” has the most classic sound on the album. With a fingerpicked electric guitar backed by rhythm acoustic and two-part harmonies throughout, this is Mighty Brother at their most exposed. They craft a wonderfully familiar sound, while still keeping it fresh and surprising. Lyrics like “I’m not holding my… … breath” charm the listener, as the song continues to build, adding more parts throughout until it breaks its otherwise familiar form to move into an expansive soundscape. The songs title may well be a pun on “normalcies” as the band explores nostalgic ideas and beautiful images of returning to port, seeing fields blooming in spring, watching the Parthenon “gleam with evening, lavender and ivory,” then counters with tongue-in-cheek lines like “surely it will be just how you remember” when it is clear the protagonist knows that it won’t be because either they have changed, or the place has changed… and, most likely, it’s both! A mature song, and a wonderful midpoint to the album.  

The title of track 7 on the record, “Track 7 Blew My Mind,” gave me a nice belly laugh. Nothing brings this album more into the present-day than this click-baity song name. It is further echoed in the choruses which move through a number of phrases that you’d likely see on a social media ad and that are probably best left to your spam filter. Lines like “you wouldn’t believe it, this one habit will make you irresistibly manly” are a comedic reflection on the otherwise difficult underlying topic of the song, identity and fitting in in an increasingly divisive world. I found myself jamming along to the catchy melodies, upbeat rhythm, and infectious horn hooks, and then going back to review the lyrics a second time.  

“Rubia Marionet” continues to break from the nautical imagery of the rest of the album, and in its place we have a captivating puppet show. “Bienvenue, please take a seat if you find one” is a fantastic opening line that you could imagine from the most tenured busker or stage performer. Musically the song waltzes in 3/4 time and features Beatles-esque harmony parts singing Rubia’s name and echoing “La dee da da dee da de.” The saxophone is the surprise support in this song, padding through the verses, and offering a unique sound palette to what would otherwise be a familiar rock ballad approach. The joy the band put into the overly-circussy bridge is apparent with the addition of a slide-whistle and other auxiliary parts. With a few casually and tastefully thrown away lines, and an almost fireside chat approach to the lyrics throughout the track, Huster surprises with some big notes and controlled vibrato at the end of the song to send it home. The band also shared a beautifully shot music video that accompanies the song complete with contemporary dancers with marionette face paint, and Huster himself acting as the ringmaster. 

On “Doldrums” Kirkman and Huster trade lines over a 6/8 backbeat that grows into a huge rock chorus, bolstered by a tasteful key change, and backed by a full horn section. “Don’t rock the boat, man it’s the same one that I’m in” they sing in vocal unison, mocking the lack of action and fear of change that was especially visible from all walks of life over the past few years. Mighty Brother flexes their lyrical prowess and vocal abilities, trading bars, and still building a wonderful narrative. The song is a shout-out to the narrative of the “Danse Macabre” and each character, the emperor, laborer, pope, and king get to share their input on what to do while lost at sea, which adds up to almost absolutely nothing. In the end, it’s clear “this ship is gonna sink” and we find the protagonist marooned in the next song.   

“Cliffs & The Ghost” is another favorite from the album. Carried by a familiar train-track drum beat, the song goes in directions that are anything but. “Eyes adrift in the cliffs and the ghost of a boring baby blue sky” sings Kirkman, with Huster supporting on the low octave. The song beautifully depicts a shipwrecked character slowly losing their grip and drifting further and further out of touch. “I don’t even know my name to raise a pyre” belts the chorus. The song wonderfully deals with that feeling of what’s next? What do you do when you feel you’ve lost everything? An eerie bridge in which the singer trades bars with an ethereal voice asking “was it all for nothing” and instructing “make something of it” leads into a raucous outro. Sternberg solos in overdriven bass while Kirkman belts out over and over “Nobody knows my name!” Mighty Brother feels right at home in 7/8 time before closing out the track with a heavy half time break down. This is the absolute highest point of the album, and sets up the last track to be that much more moving.

“The Breakers” is an emotional ballad and beautiful outro to the album. Listening closely, I was almost moved to tears by the sparse instrumental, rawness of Kirkman’s vocal, and familiar gospel harmony backbone that builds throughout the song. “2,000 feet above the breakers, I am climbing down” is the resonant lyric, a call to move forward even through hardship, to get back out there. It’s a curtain call in the final act of the album, but not a clear end, rather a continuation of the journey. I’m excited to see where the band goes from here.

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