Few bands burst onto the scene like Imagine Dragons did. Back in 2013, "Radioactive” took the world by storm when it seemingly came out of nowhere and became one of the biggest rock songs of the decade. The band followed up 2013′s Night Visions with an album of new ideas yet seemingly familiar: Smoke & Mirrors. Imagine Dragons’ new album is very reminiscent of their first effort, yet still introducing some new ideas that they have yet to explore.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t too confident about the quality album when they released the first single from it - “I Bet My Life”. I was not much of a fan of the soulful ballad (and I’m still not - it’s one of my least favorite tracks on the album). The album kicked off with “Shots,” which in all honestly isn’t too bad. It didn’t raise my hopes for the album, as it was a pretty characteristic Imagine Dragons song in every regard (and, unfortunately, not in the areas in which they shine). When the second song, “Gold”, kicked in, that’s when I tightened my seatbelt. Similar to “Radioactive” in all the right places - it’s huge, it’s catchy, and it’s pretty anthemic. The electrifying falsettos in the choruses are incredible, as well as the swirling guitar solo that wraps up the song. Listening to the title track almost made me skip it. That song’s a train wreck, the in your face pre-chorus that kicks into the very underwhelming chorus completely throws off the intensity “Gold” set up. Thankfully, the next song on the album completely brought my hopes back up. “I’m So Sorry” is my favorite track on the album (I did a guitar cover of it, too, if you’re interested). This track brings some pure rock and roll onto the table, akin to the intensity of Jack White. Perhaps a bit cheesy and maybe even a rip-off, but electrifyingly incredible. The madness that is the outro solo just makes it all the better.
A lot of the album begins to lull at this point. You have some fairly subpar tracks following (including “I Bet My Life” and “Polaroid”) that fail to show much growth in their repertoire. We cannot forget some of better songs on the album, though: “Friction”, “Dream”, “Hopeless Opus”, and “The Fall” all caught my attention in the best way possible. “Friction” in particular grabbed my ear, likely due to my guilty pleasure of some nice tribal drumming. Awesome Middle-Eastern, African-tribal vibe from this song. Heavy as all hell, too. This one’s going to be a monster live (no pun intended).
All in all, Imagine Dragons’ sophomore album isn’t much of an evolution, but rather an extension influenced by experiences. Let’s be honest - there isn’t much evident growth in the songs here. Most of the tracks would probably fit fine on Night Visions (barring the heavier tracks like “I’m So Sorry” and “Friction”). When they do shine on this album, however, they really bring their all. A solid rock album, but nothing groundbreaking.
Favorite Tracks: I’m So Sorry, Friction, Gold, Hopeless Opus
Least Favorite Tracks: Smoke & Mirrors, I Bet My Life, Polaroid