Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Interscope
Conspicuously absent from the laundry list of influences the Imagine Dragons so often cite is the Killers, the only other Las Vegas rock band of note. Imagine Dragons downplay the glamour the Killers found so alluring but they share a taste for the overblown, something that comes to full fruition on their second album, Smoke + Mirrors. Bigger and bolder than 2012's Night Visions, Smoke + Mirrors captures a band so intoxicated with their sudden surprise success that they've decided to indulge in every excess.
And this year’s “Truth in Advertising” award goes to ... Imagine Dragons. By naming its new album “Smoke + Mirrors,” the hit rock band from Las Vegas has provided the most honest possible indictment of the sound within. It’s a work almost entirely devoted to embellishment, showing far more care with what surrounds a song than with what lies at its core.
Imagine Dragons hit serious pay dirt in 2012 with their multi-million-selling debut Night Visions. That album was hard to pigeonhole: not because the Las Vegan band has alighted upon a hitherto-undiscovered musical genre, but rather because their sound is, frankly, all over the place: a ragbag assortment of arena rock, hip-hop, blues and folk. If reaching for a concise label, Imagine Dragons could best be described as “Coldplay on steroids”.
Let's give Imagine Dragons credit where it's due. On their multiplatinum 2012 debut, Night Visions, the Las Vegas act found a way to reheat old-fashioned arena-rock catharsis for the segmented pop world of the 2010s — fusing Coldplay's heart-hugging balladry, Arcade Fire's darkly heroic surge, neon Killers synths and elements of hip-hop, folk and EDM into something new. Their biggest hit, "Radioactive," was a dour moaner that sounded like Chris Martin trying to write an Eminem ballad about the end of the world.
Like their countrymen Foster the People, Las Vegas-based quartet Imagine Dragons are the quintessential contemporary rock band, combining Coldplay-style choruses with, in their own words, “weird stuff”. In truth, Smoke + Mirrors isn’t weird at all, its electronic-flecked songs designed for adolescents who find Arcade Fire too edgy and are quite fond of house. Occasionally, as on the invigorating Gold – soundtrack to a futuristic spaghetti western – they stumble on a sound that is their own.
When Target spent $8 million to buy out an entire commercial break during the 2015 Grammys, it tapped Imagine Dragons to perform new single “Shots” in its entirety. The national retailer was right to bank on the Las Vegas band as the lynchpin of its #MoreMusic campaign. Like The Killers before them, Imagine Dragons possess a certain flair for spectacle that has led to sold-out performances around the world, each of which has had more in common with the Fountains of Bellagio than your average rock ‘n’ roll show.
If Imagine Dragons’ first album, 2012’s “Night Visions,” sounded as if the band was to the arena born, its sophomore release, “Smoke + Mirrors,” finds the Las Vegas-spawned quartet making sure to reach fans in the nosebleeds with easily digestible, melodic, mid-tempo paeans to angst. The disc covers typical second album territory: coping with the blessings and curses of actually getting what you want (the percussive, destined for hit-dom “Gold”), searching for anchors to hold onto in the swirl of achieved dreams (the gauzy, harmony-rich title track and the piano-driven “Dream”). Frontman Dan Reynolds is in a remorseful mood, offering up a raft of apologies on several tracks including synth-poppy opener “Shots,” the sludgy, angular “I’m So Sorry,” and ubiquitous, shouty first single, “I Bet My Life.
Success has been rough for Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, the Las Vegas-based rock band that sold over 2 million copies of its 2012 debut, "Night Visions," thanks to inescapable hits such as "It's Time" and "Radioactive." A dubstep-dipped welcome to a post-apocalyptic age, the latter spent 87 weeks on Billboard's Hot 100, longer than any other song in the chart's history. Nearly a year after "Radioactive" finally dropped off the tally, though, Reynolds seems to think doomsday has only just begun. This is a modal window.