Review: “Smoke + Mirrors” by Imagine Dragons

May 5, 2015

I’ve been a fan of Imagine Dragons for quite a while now. I bought debut album “Night Visions” last year and although it’s not my usual genre of choice, I was literally blown away by the record. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time, and I finally get to see the band live in November when they play the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. I heard some of the singles from follow-up album “Smoke + Mirrors” and finally got round to buying the album last month. I’m not too sure what I was expecting; “Night Visions” was already a mish-mash of different sounds, would this album be the same? Would it be as good as the previous effort? Can they really make a better album than their debut? It’s always a worry of mine when I really enjoy an album, and it’s one that I’ve seen realised a million times over.

The album starts with “Shots” which has an intro perfect for the start of any album, and the fantastic rhythm continues throughout the song. It’s a classic Imagine Dragons song, even though their material spans so many different genres. This is then followed by the almost tribal drums of “Gold”. Although a slower track, it’s still an incredibly catchy song. There are a few songs on the record which act almost as a bridge between the two albums; title track “Smoke + Mirrors” is reminiscent of “Nothing Left To Say” from the previous collection. Similarly, stand-out track and lead single “I Bet My Life” could belong on either album and fit perfectly. It’s a track that, although fantastic on the album, will be absolutely amazing on a live stage.

One of Imagine Dragons’ many strengths is being able to make any style of song catchy through the use of percussion, as demonstrated on “Polaroid” – although slower, the glockenspiel rhythm will be stuck in your head for days. It’s complimented by some fantastic lyrics as well. “Friction” showcases some Indian-style rhythms combined with different guitar effects which results in an incredible track. The different guitars also give “It Comes Back To You” a slightly futuristic feel and make it a nice, uplifting song. Meanwhile, “Trouble” has one of the catchiest choruses on the record whilst keeping a very folk-type feel to the song, and “I’m So Sorry” has echoes of You Me At Six’s “Loverboy”.

Not every song is as strong however, and there’s a couple of songs which are a little more forgettable than the others. “Dream” is a nice song with good vocals, but it’s just not as good as some of the other songs on the album. The same could be said for “Summer” with its more indie style and strange time signature – again, there just isn’t enough there to make it a stand-out track.

The album ends on a chilled note, with one of my favourite tracks “Hopeless Opus” being the penultimate song. It’s impossible not to smile whilst listening to this song, it’s just so lovely and pleasant and a definite mood-brightener. Slightly unorthodox mixing and a big guitar solo, but that just adds to the positives. This leads into “The Fall” which again could be a continuation of “Night Visions” leaving you relaxed and ready for a nap!

On the whole, “Smoke + Mirrors” isn’t quite as good as predecessor “Night Visions”. But to be honest, I didn’t think it would be. I haven’t been left disappointed by the album at all, which is a lot more than I can say for other follow-up albums from numerous bands (Evanescence anyone?) I think I might feel better about the less strong songs after a few more listens, but I’m loving the singles and the catchy rhythms found all over the album, and I’m so excited to see some of the songs live later in the year. Anyone who has seen Imagine Dragons live knows how well they put on a show – and if anyone is seeing them at Big Weekend in Norwich this year, I’m very jealous of you.

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