The second album from a band that admirably refuses to sit within the constraints of what’s critically acceptable. An album that finally releases the shackles of their previous hits.
This long awaited second offering from Imagine Dragons entitled “Smoke + Mirrors” proves their maturity. The Las Vegas rockers have spent a long time recording this album, snatching days here and there within their heavy touring schedule.
First thing to note about this album is the rather iconic artwork done by California artist Tim Cantor. Visually striking, the bound hands set free a beautiful bird, perhaps a reference to wanting to emerge from the shackles of previous hits such as Radioactive. Or it could be that it’s a positive sign of hope in the well reported battle with depression of lead singer Dan Reynolds.
Nobody has cast doubt on the musical ability of the band members, with some of them having attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Critics have found more problems with the sincerity of some of their lyrics claiming that there is a false depth to them. We actually have to disagree, this album if anything shows Reynolds’ heartfelt lyrics detailing his “healing process”. He has spoken of sitting alone in his “hotel room at 2am” writing the demos for Smoke + Mirrors as his “therapy” during some of his troubled periods.
Production of this album is overseen by English hip-hop producer Alex da Kid. If you don’t know of him, he not only did their first album, but has also done a multitude of hit songs for Rihanna, Nicki Minaj & Eminem.
First release “I Bet My Life”, is a total folk stomper. Probably best listened to while barn dancing like it’s 1969 somewhere in Saskatchewan. You will be able to draw strong comparisons to their rootsy song It’s Time from the first album.
The recent single “Shots” is another strong track with Daniel Platzman’s solid drumming intertwined with the strings in the
production. The pre-chorus is actually catchy enough in itself to be a standalone chorus.
“Gold” is possibly the album’s strongest song. The silky harmonies in the chrus are on another level, & the production is incredibly unique with cut up vocal samples, dirty electric guitar & tribal drums all of which conjure images of an African Sunset.
“Dream” is a cinematic epic complete with string section and pleading vocals. It could perhaps have done without the 808 claps in the chorus however as they sound distractingly robotic in rhythm. “Friction” is brave in the sense that the music could sound dated with it’s nu-metal style chorus. Despite this, there is enough of a modern spin on the production to take it into 2015.
Imagine Dragons are known for their bombastic live show and swaggering rock songs such as “I’m So Sorry” promise to be festival favourites this summer. This one sounds similar in style to label-mates X-Ambassadors (see our exclusive interview with X Ambassadors here), who recently had their song Jungle remixed with hip-hop legend Jay-Z lending his vocals.
The light and airy “Summer” has a funky bass-line courtesy of Ben McKee, and the jangly electric guitar sounds are reminiscent of the best of British indie bands.
It was always going to be hard to follow up to their debut album Night Visions with hits Radioactive, It’s Time & Demons absolutely dominating the Billboard Hot 100 for the past two years, but Imagine Dragons have given it their best shot and have confidently hit the target, showing that they are anything but a one-trick wonder.
Artist: Imagine Dragons
Album: Smoke + Mirrors
Label: KIDinaKORNER/Interscope – 2015
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