Review: “Smoke and Mirrors” by Imagine Dragons

I think it’s about time I make another attempt to speak intelligently about music. It’s been a couple of months since the last go around. We’ve all sufficiently forgotten how bad it was, right? Right.

Okay. So I downloaded the new Imagine Dragons album, Smoke and Mirrors this past weekend. I was going on another trip up north to my hometown and I figured that I’d have a good three hour bus trip to get familiar with it. I’ve come to some conclusions since then.

Conclusion #1: Their first album, Night Visions, was better.

It was louder, more upbeat, and the lyrics had an amazingly poetic quality about them. That entire CD was so hauntingly beautiful, so unique in sound that I guess even Imagine Dragons couldn’t repeat it. I loved every single song on that CD (no, seriously, I did) and I had expected to hear the same original art on Smoke and Mirrors.

Conclusion #2: Smoke and Mirrors is not Night Visions.

One of the things I like about Imagine Dragons is that they’re true artists when it comes to their sound. They use instruments and pauses and vocals like a brush on canvas, make sounds that are fun, but always original, too. None of their songs ever really sound the same, even within the same album, but you always hear their style in each. Smoke and Mirrors sounds like Imagine Dragons, but it doesn’t sound like Night Visions. I shouldn’t have expected it to.

Conclusion #3: I actually really like Smoke and Mirrors.

It took me until the third run through of the album before I heard it – that magical musical sound my inner ear listens for in order to forge a connection with a song – but on the third repetition of “Polaroid” I finally cracked. The lyrics clicked with the beat and with me and it just worked. By the time I listened through the album again to “Hopeless Opus” I was smitten.

Conclusion #4: Someone must have been through a breakup.

At least two songs (“Shots” and “I’m So Sorry”) directly apologize for something and two others are pretty relationship focused (“It Comes Back to You” and “The Fall”). I hope they’re doing alright.

And since you all know how obsessed I am with lyrics in songs (see my Paradise Fears review for clarity), I’ll put a few of my favorites below.

All my life I’ve been living in the fast lane

Can’t slow down I’m a rollin’ freight train.

One more time gotta start all over

Can’t slow down I’m a lone red rover.

-“Polaroid” by Imagine Dragons

Hey, Mr. safe man, hustle me an ok.

I could slide, take a dive, take it for the home team.

Hey Mr. postman, slip me one more green note.

I’ve been low, hit the floor, looking just to make broke.

It’s not a picture perfect life, not what I had in mind.

Let me write my own line.

-“Hopeless Opus” by Imagine Dragons

If you haven’t given this album a listen yet, some of the songs are on Spotify and YouTube already. But seriously, it’s worth the purchase. I seriously wish I could afford to see this band in concert when they come around for their Smoke and Mirrors tour, but alas I am a lowly postgrad. So I will have to just make do listening to both of their albums repeatedly on my amazing sound system at very high volumes. Sorry I’m not sorry, neighbors. You will be musically educated whether you like it or not.

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