‘Smoke + Mirrors’ review: Imagine Dragons get back to their roots in sophomore album

By Erica Abbott
February 15, 2015

Members of Imagine Dragons--Daniel Platzman, Ben McKee, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon. (Creative Commons)
Members of Imagine Dragons–Daniel Platzman, Ben McKee, Dan Reynolds and Wayne Sermon. (Creative Commons)

Imagine Dragons are aiming to redefine themselves in their new album “Smoke + Mirrors.” Their sophomore album, released Feb. 17, is a follow up to their Grammy-winning album “Night Visions.” “Smoke + Mirrors” has a distinctive new sound among all the tracks and Imagine Dragons seem to be getting back to their roots with this new sound, drawing inspiration from the days of their EPs of “Hell and Silence” and “Imagine Dragons EP.”

Let me just start off by saying that when I first heard each of the three singles, I was not all that impressed. The sound, which made me originally become fanatical about the native Las Vegas rock band, is very different from their debut album. But after listening to them a few times, I grew to love the new sound.

By far the best songs off this album are “I’m So Sorry,” which is reminiscent of the sound of “Night Visions,” “Gold” and “Thief,” an exclusive bonus track from Target. That’s not to say that the other songs are bad but they take a little bit more getting used to. Songs like “Trouble” and “Polaroid” took the most getting used to because they deviate so far away from their “Night Visions” sound but if you know their early work, they will sound much more similar.

When I first listened to “Shots,” the third single off the album, I thought it was the worst of the three singles. I didn’t like the pitch of the song and found it to be jumbled. Upon hearing them sing it live during a Target Super Bowl commercial, however, I came to love it. It is very catchy and a song that has beats you just want to dance along to.

The other two singles, “I Bet My Life” and “Gold” were immediate favorites of mine. If you are listening to “Gold” on your iPhone though, you might not be all that dazzled. The deep sounds of the bass don’t translate well through the tiny speakers so it’s a lot better to listen to it on a laptop. In “I Bet My Life,” lead singer Dan Reynolds sings about his past, his parents and “taking the path that you would never want for me, I gave you hell through all the years.”

The lyrics of the title track bring out the deception implied in the song’s title, “Smoke and Mirrors.” Reynolds sings of wanting to believe, even if everything is simply a dream. “All I believe, is it a dream that comes crashing down on me? All that I hope, is it just smoke and mirrors?”

“Friction” is a bit of a so-so song for me. The beats and the singing style aren’t what I was expecting and really not the most appealing. But from the moment I first started listening to Imagine Dragons, Reynolds’ voice reminded me of certain sounds of Switchfoot. “Friction” definitely gives me the vibes of Switchfoot songs like “Meant To Live.” However, it just doesn’t feel like their best work because of the quality of work that they have previously produced.

“It Comes Back To You” portrays a perspective of mental health in its calm melody. The song “Dream” takes a slowed down approach with a sensitive piano ballad.

“Summer,” though it makes me yearn for the return of the warmth with its smooth melody, is not my favorite off the album. It is definitely not their strongest piece. The lyrics are striking but I feel as though the delivery is weak. In “Hopeless Opus,” albeit a little strange, the guitar riffs make it more creatively charged.

“The Fall” is the most unmemorable song off the album. Though the lyrics are powerful with lines such as “Ready for the leaves, ready for the colors to burn to gold and crumble away,” the general feel and ambience of the song just doesn’t make me want to listen to it on replay.

There are also four exclusive Target tracks. “Thief” is well worth an order or visit to the store. “The Unknown” is a nice mix between multiple songs on the album, incorporating themes and lyrics from songs like “It Comes Back To You” and “Dream.” “Second Chance” has an amazing message sung through its lyrics and “Release” delivers a subtle and sweet acoustic performance.

With many songs on this album, actually listening to the lyrics will pack much more of a powerful punch than simply hearing the music. This album is a great follow up to their debut album, despite the reinvention of their music. Change can absolutely be a good thing and it has paid off for the members of Imagine Dragons.


Imagine Dragons performing a show at the Izod Center during the "Into the Night" tour in March 2014. (Erica Abbott / News Editor)
Imagine Dragons performing a show at the Izod Center during the “Into the Night” tour in March 2014. (Erica Abbott / News Editor)

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Erica Abbott

Hi my name is Erica Abbott and I am the News Editor for the Loquitur this year. I am currently a junior Communication major, Spanish minor. I am also a social buzz editorial intern with Business 2 Community. I am very interested in the arts, social media, photography and writing.

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