Imagine Dragons’ Sophomore Album Is More Than Just Smoke + Mirrors

Photo by Anthony Mair

Photo by Anthony Mair

In the dimmed P3 Studio Art Gallery at the Cosmopolitan, 200 Imagine Dragons fans from around the world sat, stood and danced. As they previewed Tim Cantor’s album artwork on January 24, they scored a first-listen to the Las Vegas band’s LP Smoke + Mirrors, which will be released on February 17.

So what did it sound like? Imagine a chapel choir singing ethereal harmonies over organ pipes. Now, imagine a reckless industrial band barging in and playing alongside the congregation. This effect is strongest on the tracks “Sorry” and “Friction.”

But what happened to the sound that made Imagine Dragons famous? You know, smooth guitar riffs, prominent percussion and Dan Reynolds belting more hooks than a piece of kinky Peter Pan fan-fiction. That’s still there. But what separates Night Visions from Smoke ­+ Mirrors is that the latter uses this now-familiar pop style to explore a range of emotions wider than just joy. Piano-driven “Polaroid” is actually somber. And radio single “I Bet My Life” hints at forgiveness and complicated family relationships.

In the end, Smoke ­+ Mirrors’ overarching similarity to its predecessor stunts the album, making it a little too safe. Flirty incorporations of opera and exotic instruments show promise, but never take the lead. They’re just complements to slamming percussion and vocals. Because of this overused style, “I Bet My Life” sounds similar to “It’s Time,” a song the band released three years ago. Smoke ­+ Mirrors is a solid follow up to Night Visions, but after that first listen, you can’t help but wonder if “It’s Time” for something new.