Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors

BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM

“It’s Time” to begin again!

It’s surreal to think that despite having only released one album, which was the Las Vegas quartet’s 2012 debut “Night Visions,” Imagine Dragons have gained a level of success and popularity in the span of two and a half years, something most bands work their whole lives to achieve. Their “NV” album cycle yielded four singles (“It’s Time,” “Radioactive,” “Demons” and an EP, “Continued Silence”) that were simply everywhere from the radio, to movies and even commercials. A rock album selling two times platinum right now, in a time where the genre is far from the commercially hot commodity it used to be, is simply incredible.

How did this happen? Well, it’s simply because Imagine Dragons are not afraid to embrace all the elements of both melodic indie rock and R&B-style electronic rhythms. This gives the group’s sound, while far from original, a versatility that combines rock swagger with bombastic pop hooks and choruses that will ensure them radio airplay.

Some may call this “selling out” or accuse Imagine Dragons of not being a “true” rock band, but such attitudes stifle creativity. Music evolves and Imagine Dragons represent the state of mainstream rock music at the moment. Love it or hate, that’s just how it is.

Anyway, after months of high-profile promotion and two popular singles (“Shots” and “I Bet My Life”) Imagine Dragons have finally released their much-anticipated follow-up. Does it live up to the hype or is it the much dreaded sophomore slump?

Thankfully, “Smoke + Mirrors” not only proves to be an improvement on their debut, but will also probably secure the band’s continued success. One of the biggest issues with “Night Visions” was that once you got past the four singles, which were front-loaded in the album’s first-half, it did not have much to offer in terms of memorable tunes. “Smoke + Mirrors” does not suffer from this drawback as much as its predecessor . . . at least not as much (the only flop on the album is the plodding “Gold,” but even that one is not bad). The group still relies a good deal on flashy clean production and bombastic instrumentation to give their compositions power. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re just looking for a fun collection of pop rock, but emotional resonance or thought provoking lyrical can be lacking at times. The group is still a long way from crafting a truly memorable modern rock album.

Lead singer Dan Reynold’s commented to Rolling Stone magazine back in April that the record would be more stripped down and rock-driven. “Smoke + Mirrors” music proves this statement to be mostly factual, although hip-hop influences still prevails in some tracks. One of the standout tracks includes the bombastic and straight-rocker “I’m So Sorry;” combining loud drumming with fuzzy thumping guitar in a way that is sure to make an energetic concert highlight.

Meanwhile, Reynolds once again proves to be the group’s greatest asset. His incredibly versatile vocals are fully displayed on tracks such as “I Bet My Life,” were he makes rapid but smooth transitions between touchy whispers and loud chorus singing. Meanwhile, he sings some pretty killer lyrics on tracks such as “Polaroid” and “Hopeless Opus.” Although quotable does not always equal substantial.

While the album is far from life changing, Imagine Dragons once again delivers another dose of catchy pop rock with a refreshing sense of depth that can be severely lacking on the pop charts.

Standout Tracks: Shots, Polaroid, I’m So Sorry, Dream

Rating: 3.5/5

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