Three years after releasing their first album Night Visions, Imagine Dragons has returned with another full-length venture called Smoke + Mirrors, released this past February.
This second album echoes their first attempt at original sound, contagious energy, and lyrics of preservation in the face of trial. The band has clearly grown in its sound and organization since their first album.
The first track, “Shots,” introduces airy guitar riffs and doubled-up vocals for the first few lyrics on the percussion-heavy and synthesizer-light track. Front man Dan Reynolds immediately hits listeners with layered vocals, and the song progresses into a content-heavy track that only Imagine Dragons can perfect. “Shots” recounts the regret of someone looking back over the hurt he has caused to loved ones during the course of his life. From here, the album only goes upward.
The next track, “Gold,” highlights the percussion and synthetic sound that seems to be a huge staple in this album. Whistles even work their way into this track, along with a symphony of clap-percussion and booming bass.
The title track, “Smoke + Mirrors,” follows next, and definitely highlights the extent of sound experimentation that Imagine Dragons played with. “I’m So Sorry” punches its way out next, with crunching guitar riffs, exploding drum beats, and lyrics that make any nonconformist pump their fist in the air. This upbeat tune leads into “I Bet My Life,” the first track released as a teaser single a few months before the whole album release. The song is a solid show of punk-pop, and then leads into one of the quirkier songs, “Polaroid,” that show off the band’s enduring character.
Tracks like “Friction” and “Dream” deliver heavier messages of disillusionment and shedding conflict, while “It Comes Back To You,” “Summer,” and “Hopeless Opus” deal with passing on the positive in life, falling out of love with affluence, and coming to terms with life’s unpredictability.
“Trouble” is admittedly the album’s weakest track and seems to drag forever amidst riffs that travel too fast and drums that hardly seem able to keep up.
While hip-hop was a huge inspiration for Night Visions, the band professed that they leaned more heavily toward the rock side of music for Smoke + Mirrors. The basis for the sound has taken a slight turn in direction this time around; but the self-written and inventive lyrics stay true to Imagine Dragons’ spirit, and diehard fans will not be disappointed.