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Imagine Dragons mature, bring another collection of singles

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Imagine Dragons mature, bring another collection of singles

By Matt Maielli / Staff Writer

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Imagine Dragons

Smoke + Mirrors

Grade: B

After a double-platinum album and nearly two years of rocking the world on tour, the alternative rock band from Las Vegas is back with new material. Imagine Dragons returns, older and wiser, with its sophomore album, Smoke + Mirrors.

The band formed in Sin City in 2009 with Dan Reynolds on vocals, Wayne Sermon on guitar, Daniel Platzman on drums and percussion and Ben McKee on bass. After honing its craft of catchy alt-rock anthems in Vegas for three years (and several EPs), the group released Night Visions, its first studio album, to monumental success. From there, what happened in Vegas certainly couldn’t just be the city’s secret, so the band embarked on a worldwide tour.

The band returns with another collection of singles chock-full of clapping and chanting. Its trademark hooking intros and catchy choruses are ever-present.

The band’s worldwide Night Visions Tour brought it to Europe, South America, Oceania and even a brief stint in Lebanon. The travels inspired much of the new album, and the band used the emotions from the tour to create 13 distinct stories on 13 songs. 

Translating the touring life onto a record could have made for a disjointed effort, but Smoke + Mirrors, instead, showcases the band’s maturation over the past few years.

Imagine Dragons released three singles prior to the album’s release — “I Bet My Life,” “Gold” and “Shots.” The track “Shots” opens the album with an elevating instrumental that throws you right back into their world. It’s just a shame that the title will unconsciously conjure up images of Lil Jon.

The consistency continues with “Gold,” an alt-rock spin on the classic “all that glitters is not gold” adage. The beginning will have you checking your speakers as a skipping vocal is laced over tribal drums and background chanting. The song grapples with the after-effects of achieving fame and dealing with who and what you can and cannot trust. The result is a rock epic to which even King Midas could relate.

The next track, “Smoke and Mirrors,” brings a yelling chorus about whether belief in your dreams will see them achieved or whether it’s all the trick of some unseen magician. The song sets the tone for most of the album while also putting forth the first significant helping of guitar. 

“I’m So Sorry” seeks to cleverly burst your eardrums. It starts off with a deceivingly quiet beat, then slaps you with a thwacking drum and establishes that this is a song that wants to be heard. The song covers the subject of making it on your own, yelling “You never know the top until you get too low,” and later having to apologize to those you may have hurt along the way. 

“Friction” opens with a vaguely eastern beat continuing throughout. Be prepared to hear this one at sporting events. The fast, yelling lyrics are captivating and blood-pumping.

The album middles out and slows down with “It Comes Back to You” and “Dream.” These two are where they are most like Coldplay. The sound picks up again at a sprinting pace with “Trouble.”

“Hopeless Opus” gives the album a slightly more rock end with a waning guitar solo, but not before some skipping in the background and vocals. The song’s guitar solo gives Sermon some much needed air time. However, the fact that the album is another collection of singles is painfully obvious when the guitar slips in a few more notes at the end that the switchover cuts off.

The album ends with “The Fall,” a six-minute-long introspection about the eventual end of things. Inciting images of leaves and crumbling gold (likely referencing “Gold” from earlier), it’s a fitting end to an experimental album. When Reynolds sings, “Only the good die old/ that’s what they told me/ but I don’t know,” you can imagine he’s talking of the band’s insane freshman fame.

Smoke + Mirrors is nearly an hour of a band that has grown in self-awareness. The album itself isn’t self-referential, but reflective. With the help of worldwide influences, Imagine Dragons remains one of the most inventive alt-rock bands out there. No tricks here.

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Imagine Dragons mature, bring another collection of singles