Imagine Dragons: Smoke + Mirrors
Alternative & IndieRock
After their 2012 debut album, alternative-rock band, Imagine Dragons, were propelled into relative stardom. On top of going multiplatinum, Night Vision topped charts and its singles have since been featured in several movies and TV series, with ‘Radioactive’ even winning a Grammy. The band further drew in critical acclaim whilst touring by proving that they are just as strong live as they are on their studio-recorded hits.
The quartet returns once more to the scene, giving 2015 one of its most intriguing albums to date; Smoke + Mirrors. Right from the get go, listeners are drawn into a mixture of music genres that is hard to classify into a single one, but if there is one dominating theme for the album, it is ‘the more the merrier’, resulting in an instrumental fiasco of sorts.
The band’s attempt at taking their efficacious debut and expanding it into something more is evident with their sophomore release’s full-fledged electronic-streaked songs. Whether this attempt was for the better or for the worse, however, is quite debatable; certain moments along the album descend into a bewildering calamity of overwhelming sounds that seem to have been uncomfortably crammed into a single album.
All throughout the album, it is easy to notice how the foursome has drawn inspiration from various other artists. In album opener, ‘Shots’, lead singer, Dan Reynolds, echoes Bon Iver’s hauntingly high-pitched vocals, which are then accentuated by an alternative-rock-meets- dance-anthem backbeat.
Moreover, The Black Keys’ signature blues-infused garage rock can be evidently heard in ‘I’m So Sorry’, whereas Coldplay’s signature lingeringly soothing choruses serve as the muse for pretty much the second half of the album.
But it’s not all bad. ‘I Bet My Life’ harks back to the sound that carried Imagine Dragons’ debut. On the other hand, whistles, folky guitar strums and tormented, slow-mo vocals accentuate ‘Gold’; perhaps the most eerie-sounding tune, one that is perfectly fit to be the soundtrack of the apocalypse.
Best described as a lyrical juxtaposition, Smoke + Mirrors is seemingly fuelled misery-infused, highly emotional lyrics that are then heavily contrasted by booming moments of euphoria. Reynolds flatly croons “I'm a reckless mistake” on ‘Polaroid’ and then later on calmly belts out “open up your eyes, open up your mind” on ‘Summer’.
As a whole, Smoke + Mirrors does have its moments of sheer musical genius, that perhaps are more noticed after the ear becomes more and more familiar with the album’s initially confusing collisions. It is, at the end of the day, the result of the band’s experimentation with different sounds, which has done with a notable effort. Do we, however, miss the heavy alternative rock sound of Night Vision? Sadly, yes. Definitely and tremendously.