While his claim to indie-rock fame may be as the bass player for the influential D.C. emo-core band Rites of Spring, Mike Fellows has a much longer second career as a top-notch session and touring musician. He's worked with bands like Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham), Smog (Bill Callahan), and the Silver Jews (David Berman and friends), among others.
On his first solo recording, Fellows appears as Miighty Flashlight a long-running alterna-folk project that (at least at one time) included Fugazi/Rites of Spring vocalist Guy Picciotto and Bridget Cross of Unrest and Air Miami. But on the debut of Miighty Flashlight, Fellows goes it alone, with just his guitars and computer providing accompaniment. Although the album is composed entirely of home recordings, it is not lo-fi in the least, but a well-crafted singer/songwriter recording.
Being already associated with three of the greatest and most individualistic indie-rock lyricists of the past decade (Will Oldham, Bill Callahan and David Berman) is instant opportunity for comparison one that doesn't serve Fellows one good bit. (With his cold, droll and ambiguous lyrics, Fellows' style is most reminiscent of Papa M's Whatever, Mortal). Fellows is not the lyricist that his friends are, and his songs fail to evoke mood in the way Oldham or Smog can. His lyrics consist of singular lines that don't convey any meaning. It's hard to imagine what often-unintelligible lyrics (for example: "Coming in and out of focus on the fifth of July/ You've got a great dream that you never should hide/ On top of Ballet Skool/ Don't let me be misdiagnosed" from "Ballet Skool") could possibly be about.
While Miighty Flashlight offers an engaging and enjoyable initial listen, it fails even during its best songs, such as "Several Water Cannons" and "Ballet Skool" to be anything more than mediocre. With esoteric country/folk projects coming a dime a dozen, Miighty Flashlight sounds kind of dim in comparison.