Sunday, February 22, 2015

Smoke + Mirrors | Imagine Dragons


★★☆☆☆

After taking the world by storm with a double-platinum debut album, Night Visions, and rapid-fire singles such as "Radioactive," "It's Time," and "Demons," Imagine Dragons has a lot to live up to with their sophomore attempt, Smoke + Mirrors. Despite widespread success, Night Visions was met with mediocre critical reception; the majority of that debut album was composed of songs from past extended plays. This time around, Imagine Dragons offers up thirteen brand new tracks on a standard pressing. With their sophomore attempt, is there finally something to be found beyond the Smoke + Mirrors of Imagine Dragons' alluring rock glaze?

Spoiler alert: Ultimately, the answer to that question is no. 

Imagine Dragons has bundled every possible facet of modern rock music into one compressed package. Without much thought of sonic whiplash, the band freely frolics from genre to genre, including folk, trip-hop, electronic, grungy industrial, and just mainstream rock. At their grittiest, Imagine Dragons finally piques listeners' interest. "Gold" blends rock with some chaotic drum and vocal samples that M.I.A. would normally spit raps over. while "Friction" hits hard with a rough-edged industrial sound. Tracks without heavy electronic tendencies, like "Summer" and "Hopeless Opus," find Imagine Dragons begging to an indie rock band, despite their clear attempts at a second radio takeover. They falter in quality when they fall back on those old radio-ready habits ("I Bet My Life," "Shots").

This set falls victim to the monotony of the group's formulaic compositions, and every tactic was pulled from the production arsenal to camouflage that fact. The dull foundation of Imagine Dragons' music has been painted over by an overzealous hand with a multitude of influences, but like recoloring a wall without primer, it does more harm than good. Wrap Coldplay, OneRepublic, Mumford & Sons, and Of Monsters and Men in a box, sprinkle a little influence from Alex da Kid on top, stick a bow on it, and call it Imagine Dragons. Smoke + Mirrors was Imagine Dragons' chance to prove their potential longevity in the industry, but sadly, the quartet blows more smoke than anything else here. 

Smoke + Mirrors is out now under Interscope Records and KIDinaKORNER Records. An exclusive deluxe edition can be found at Target department stores.

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