ALBUM: Imagine Dragons ‘Smoke and Mirrors’


It’s been a long two and a bit years since Imagine Dragons smacked the world round the eardrums with their hit-packed debut album, Night Visions, containing the explosive ‘Radioactive’, ‘On Top of the World’ and other such bangers. Having blown up worldwide, the album has since been certified as double platinum in the US and won the Las Vegas-based band a whopping 20 awards out of 70 nominations, including a Grammy for Best Rock Performance. It’s been a whirlwind few years for the band, but finally, their second offering is now available for the masses.

Enter Smoke and Mirrors, 18 massive tracks (deluxe version, normal has 13) boasting huge poppy melodies, pounding beats and the kind of indie-rock choruses that sell-out stadiums. Fitting really then, that this album prefaces the band’s biggest stadium tour of the UK in November, including their biggest show in the UK so far at The O2 in London.

Having already released a few tasters in the run-up to the release, fans will be familiar with the front-runners, including new single ‘Shots’ which kicks off proceedings. A laidback, electronic track that starts off sounding a little different from what we’ve come to expect from the lads, but soon enough the catchy hooks and big-ass drums are out and you’re trying to hit the (remarkably) high notes with vocalist Dan Reynolds. Previously released ‘Gold’ is different again, a creeping, electrifying tale of being unsure of who to trust around you, complete with an eerie whistle throughout, and of course there’s the foot-stamping folk fuelled ‘I Bet My Life’ with some gospel samples thrown in for good measure.

This second album seems a little darker in content, not surprising considering that Reynolds has openly spoken about suffering from depression and having to attend regular therapy sessions. We catch little snippets of his deepest feelings woven throughout, albeit disguised most of the time in an upbeat chorus, from the self-deprecating “I’m a first class let-down” in ‘Polaroid’ to the confessional piano interlude in ‘I’m So Sorry’. But nothing stands out more than the beautifully stripped-back ‘It Comes Back to You’, followed by the haunting ‘Dream’, which both seem to speak of a life lived in regret. It would be cheesy, but there’s a truthfulness to the tracks that make them quite touching.

Picking up the tempo again, ‘Trouble’ is a fast-paced look into Reynolds’ time as a missionary after college, spurred on by his Mormon faith, littered with spiritual references and powered by the rapid drumming of a marching band. Other standout tracks include the atmospheric ‘The Fall’, an almost Coldplay-esque building track, ending in a wave of crashing cymbals and the uncharacteristically tropical feeling ‘The Unknown’.

Overall, Smoke and Mirrors is a rollercoaster of emotions, riding on the highest waves at some points, before reaching into the darkest depths of a 27 year-old’s mixed-up soul and laying it all out for the world to see. This album may not be the pounding success that was Night Visions, but it certainly proves that Imagine Dragons are no one-trick pony, showcasing their strengths in a mash-up of genres and brutally honest storytelling.

Smoke and Mirrors is out now via Interscope Records. 

Angharad Bishop


Angharad Bishop

Angharad Bishop

Shamelessly stalking musicians.