After a successful 2014, from performances at the Grammys and the Billboard Music Awards to having their track Battle Cry released for the blockbuster movie Transformers: Age of Extinction, American super group Imagine Dragons released their second studio album on the 17th February.
Smoke + Mirrors, the title of the album and third song on the track list, one might call a more established album in terms of their sound and genre. Night Visions, their debut album released in 2012, had an experimental nature with tracks like Demons taking it down the path to a Hip-Hop vibe, and On Top of the World beautifully encased in a folky world of claps and whistles. However, Smoke + Mirrors push to the forefront the rock band that Imagine Dragons are.
Something that these four guys haven’t had a problem with, and even capitalised on, is their ability to make their songs anthems. After the success of their single Radioactive reaching No.1 on the Billboard Rock Charts, it was interesting to see where this took their songs. I Bet My Life, the fifth track on the album, makes use of this choric anthem style, with lead vocalist Dan Reynolds shouting with bucket loads of passion “I bet my life on you”. The song tells the story of a relationship taken for granted, the realisation of what one has and a confession to make you shout from the rooftops “please forgive me for all I’ve done”. The song progresses to become deeply anthemic with prominent electric guitar riffing and a somewhat random appearance of a female vocalist accompanying it with a few notes. This song has something of a very American anthem to it, uplifting and passionate.
Their track I’m So Sorry takes their genre to an interesting and contemporary place. With certain similarities with Greighwolfe’s Last Night in the City, the track has a heavy rock sound; picky electric guitar notes coupled with impressive scales and prominent drum beat smashing are integral to this track. Three quarters of the way through, the song takes a turn to a ballad-like bridge, juxtaposing to the rest of the song and giving an interesting reflective tone, then returning to its massive chorus. This seems quite different to their track Polaroid, a song that utilises the slowness of its beats and vocals to express an introspective perspective.
The lyrics express self-contempt, “I’m a reckless mistake, I’m a cold night’s intake” – the song travels along with what seems to be a destructive character, calling them “the colour of boom” and causing havoc to everything, even the things they love. What makes this track personable is the vocals, which have an air of a nursery rhyme quality to them. Easy to remember, repetitive but also slow, making you think more about the words “love is a polaroid, better in picture but never can fill the void”. Put this over a regular heavy beat and add a bit of a bass and Imagine Dragons has a contender.
Smoke + Mirrors seems to be a good album, its cohesive sound is refreshing after hearing their past works, but to some it may become progressively boring from the beginning to end of the album. However, it ticks the box for a culmination of interesting sounds.