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Seeing Through the ‘Smoke+Mirrors’

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Courtesy of Interscope
Courtesy of Interscope

It has been quite a journey for Imagine Dragons over the last six years. They’ve gone from being a small local band in Provo, Utah to a band with several successful EP’s based out of Las Vegas and now are a Billboard Top 200 certified, Grammy Award-winning band.

Critics and fans have been anxiously waiting for a new album since Imagine Dragons’ much-acclaimed “Night Visions” dropped back in 2012. However, the band was incredibly elusive as to when a new album would be produced, often remarking that they were working with a lot of material and would only release an album when they felt it was “perfect.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, frontman Dan Reynolds stated that he wanted their second album to be more “rock-driven” than have the hip-influence of their freshman album.

Imagine Dragons’s sophomore album, “Smoke+Mirrors” is a strong attempt to reach the high marks garnered by their freshman album “Night Visions,” but ultimately, it fails to stand up.

That’s not to say that “Smoke+Mirrors” isn’t a good album — because it is — but in trying to create a more thoroughly rock-driven album, Imagine Dragons has done the opposite; their sound has become far too broad. “Rock music” is a vague term to define a band, and unfortunately, Imagine Dragons seems to have lost their personal sound in an unnecessary attempt to define themselves to critics and fans.

The album begins with the hit single “Shots,” a delightfully catchy song that has a stereotypically indie-pop sound that harkens back to 80s music with its heavy use of synthesizers.

After the premiere song however, the album then switches gears to the highly produced, Arena Rock influenced songs “Gold” (produced by Alex Da Kid) and “I’m So Sorry.” These songs, along with hit single “I Bet My Life” have an almost Awolnation-esque feeling to them as well, which makes sense considering they toured with Awolnation back in 2012.

In the middle of the album is “Friction,” a song reminiscent of both punk and funk rock bands of the 80s and 90s. “Friction” is definitely a pump-up song; it has a vibrant yet angry energy to it, as well as a tension  that only underscores the song’s title.

While the major flaw of the album is that it lacks cohesion in genre, the songs themselves are stellar for the most part.

If there is one thing the band can pull off, it’s their themes of regret, apologies and lies. The album title, “Smoke+Mirrors,” however, suggests that apologies and explanations inside are meaningless.

In going with the theme, the album has characteristically dark lyrics throughout, whether the song is the slow-paced, heavy-sounding “Dream,” the upbeat “Shots” or the angry-sounding “Friction.”

The exception to the darkness may only be the album’s first hit single, “I Bet My Life.” The single is based around frontman Dan Reynolds’s  enduring relationship with his parents through times of support and strain.

There may be some songs on the album that most people will like, and while Imagine Dragons has great sound on “Smoke+Mirrors,” overall it is an album that likely won’t find an audience that enjoys the entire thing — other than  die-hard Imagine Dragons fans.


ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’re a die-hard Imagine Dragons fan. This album has great songs, but the appeal is too broad for most people other than fans.