REVIEW TIME! Man I wanted to do a quick review for some of the albums I missed so far but I'm going to do that soon (give me like a month. Okay, maybe a day). For now, we get the much anticipated release from the Grammy-winning -- yes, not nominated -- band Imagine Dragons. Is this album going to be better than the rather polarizing record (for me at least) that is Night Visions? Well folks, there's a saying that you should know what you're buying and right here... is unfortunately not Gold.
When the band popped up in 2012-2013 and released the worldwide euphoria that is It's Time, they followed up the single with a flurry of knockout punches in the form of Radioactive, Demons and On Top of the World (okay, not really) which eventually succeeded into a rather dismal, disappointing and messy album that is Night Vision. Yeah people liked it, for sure, but take out the existing singles and you get an album that can't even stand with two legs on it's own. Surely the band will have learnt a concise lesson from their previous outing despite their winning Grammys (and that amazing performance with Kendrick Lamar) and hopefully be able to put out an album that is at least on par with their own talents.
And I will say, God damn I wanted to like this album. The band itself has this creative and unique way of looking at music from a different perspective that just speaks volumes when it comes to them making it and really turning the scope of what they're developing. However, on their new album Smoke + Mirrors, things chuck and change as easy as reusing toothpicks to eating a fruit. For starters, the record is not bad at all, and most hardcore fans will embrace it for months to come. But this album, insufferably, is equally as appalling as their preceding record and lends nothing to the table other than the very stale formula the band built itself to shake from. What does this mean? Well...
First of all the singles are alright. They aren't special, none of them stand out (well, technically some did because the others were just lacking in parity) and for the most part do not feel like Imagine Dragons. I looked at the band as if they were willing to take risks, with the ideas behind Radioactive and their charting hits to be rather a forceful punch to really strike at new ideas, but when the album started, the tracks just melted as if they were put in a blender. Out of Shots, Gold and I Bet My Life, the first one on the list felt lacking in all sorts of aspect of songwriting; repetitive lines in the chorus that transcends to Gold, drums in the background and Dan Reynolds doing falsettos (we'll get to that in a moment) that just feels bland. Gold's production and it's stutter start that may well suit a Kanye West track turns into this monster that eats up the chorus with thumping guitars along with a solid bass-line to back it up. I Bet My Life feels similar to It's Time in the veins of familiarity -- great vocals, good guitars, decent drums and a pulsating hook is just basically same song and dance at this point.
Granted, the band does shake things up and emerge with roaring gigantic tracks such as I'm So Sorry and Friction which showcases the band's rock elements coming into play. I'm so sorry (not the song) but, they just feel so out of place on this album. Yes they are rock-heavy and they do strike with an iron fist, but they sequentially miss the point. The former track drowns itself in stuttering electric guitars and once it reaches the chorus, everything is just thrown into this pot of melting stew that is just messy as hell. Friction on the other hand feels like an acoustic-driven, foreign track that has pop elements from Michael Jackson's Wanna' Be Startin' Something (That resemblance to the lyrics popped out of my head in front of my screen when I heard it) and is probably the better track of the two. It has the thumping guitars the band is well known for, and Reynolds' vocals are simply jarring and focused. Is it one of the better tracks on the album? As far as I can see, I have to say yes at this point.
I know the lyrics have to be mentioned, though the band does write in very disparate ways from their alternative rock counterparts and this is transparently visible on their single tracks (all of them). I must say that the ones that had this problem was definitely the album's title track, Polaroid which is really somber and feels genuine though has a tendency to often drift to a cynical void and It Comes Back To You which just feels forgettable to be honest.
And then we come to Dan Reynold's vocals. I know he wasn't really that good on Night Visions mainly because the instruments carried the album, but how things have changed. Falsettos, though a little bit too stretched at times, and the low notes that he hits definitely served to become the better part of this album, and potentially saved the album on tracks like Trouble, Dream and Hopeless Opus, all of which are just varying and completely forgettable - shallow guitars and bass - and has little sentiment to them. Trouble though deserves a mention because Reynolds delivered an outstanding performance on the track and matched the rushing guitars and drums extremely well. The Fall also deserves a definite mention.
The thumping guitars on the album served basically zero purpose other than to build up the chorus and the hook, and I felt that it was either misused or underused. Never did it feel like it appeared at the right time and too much of it definitely felt as if they wanted each track to be some kind of overarching, bellowing, rousing track that would scale to the top with screams rather than pure euphoria.
Favourite Tracks: Friction, Trouble, Gold
Least Favourite Tracks: Smoke And Mirrors, Polaroid, It Comes Back To You
This sophomore album from Imagine Dragons belts out much more earthquakes does it do itself justice by delivering a straight-on, evolution of their previous record Night Visions. Is it better than the preceding record? I would say yes, but by an extremely fine margin. And the band also does no favor to themselves other than simply put that this album is just not good enough. Is it worthy of a recommendation? I think yes, but they did not earn it that's for sure. All in all, Imagine Dragons' fans rejoice and we'll hopefully see a much more focused album in the future. One can only hope.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.