Imagine Dragons: “Smoke + Mirrors”


Imagine Dragons

Smoke + Mirrors

[Interscope, KIDinaKORNER, 2015]

by Taylor Gilliam


It’s been three years, but Imagine Dragons are back with a follow-up to 2012’s breakout, Night Visions. From infectious “It’s Time” to thundering “Radioactive,” the band quickly transitioned from the alt rock scene to playing the Grammys stage both last and this year, and their tours took them all over the world.

They set the bar high for future endeavors, and it’ll be awhile before I decide if Smoke + Mirrors clears it for me.

Smoke + Mirrors opens strong with “Shots,” which was released as a single earlier this year, and it is one of my favorites on the album with classic Imagine Dragons elements: the liveliness, the harmonies, and the you’re-suddenly-drumming-the-table-in-front-of-you rhythm.

“Gold” will take you by surprise next with lead singer Dan Reynolds’ staccato yells interspersed with a whistled tune that will haunt you in the best way possible. The title track follows, a mellow song that will definitely require smoke stage effects when played live, but the spunky riffs of “I’m So Sorry” will pump you back up—I’m so excited to stomp my feet along with the rest of the crowd to this one.

“I Bet My Life” is another embodiment of what we’ve come to expect of this band, and its video is full of adventure. Cheery bells on “Polaroid” give it the nostalgic feel of an old photograph, but “Friction” is another surprise with its Indian music influences.

You settle back in with not-unpleasant-but-too-safe “It Comes Back to You,” and if you’re like me, you’ll wonder why “Dream” made the cut for the non-deluxe version of the album (and why “Who We Are” didn’t.) “Trouble” could be a Head and the Heart song, “Summer” sounds like the lazy days of the season, and “Hopeless Opus” carries the easy listening trend of the B-side straight through closer track “The Fall.”

Overall, side A wins, but side B has its gems. And the album as a whole plays a little like Night Visions—it’s fun to try to match each 2012 song with a similar one from this year. That’s not to say that Imagine Dragons haven’t grown enough, but rather there’s a comforting sense of familiarity in Smoke + Mirrors despite the unexpected tracks.

I’m someone who gets so attached to debut albums that falling in love with sophomore efforts is a process, but Smoke + Mirrors has the potential to grow on me.

“It’s Time” for you to give it a chance, too.


Recommended Tracks:

  • “Shots”
  • “I’m So Sorry”
  • “Polaroid”