Dan Reynolds, Wayne Sermon, Ben McKee, and Daniel Platzman have been redefining alternative rock for around 5 years now as Imagine Dragons
. When the band first began to increase in popularity surrounding their debut album Night Visions
, which featured hits "Radioactive" and "It's Time," their sound was perceived as being special to so many people–but it was a situation in which no one could really put a finger on what it was that made it so unique. Reynold's vocals were raw and rough at times, and at others they were lighter than a feather; however, the tone of the music did not impact its content. The lyrics remained genuine and bold as the band carried a direct, demanding attitude in almost every track. At this time, there wasn't anyone else dominating the charts that sounded anything like Imagine Dragons, not even remotely close.
It can be said that Imagine Dragons' singularity is what made them so intriguing, so when the second album came around in 2014 how did they manage to maintain this distinctive sound in the light of those who may have begun to somewhat imitate their style? They changed it. Smoke + Mirrors
presented the band with a sound that was, at times, starkly different from what listeners were used to. Rather than being driven by heavy bass and drum tracks, it took a different path that led to an airy and ambient addition to the band's growing discography. Listening to Night Visions
in its entirety followed by the whole of Smoke + Mirrors
, it feels as though you've sped through a desert with no speed limit signs anywhere to be seen only to then drive into a city during moderate traffic hours. This sudden stop forces you to slow down, and all of that time sitting in traffic allows you to take in everything around you; consequently, your thoughts get deeper and more defined, as the lyrics do on Smoke + Mirrors
. This album isn't without it's hard-hitting rock tracks, such as "Gold," but when contained in the presence of slower tracks like "Dream," it easily becomes underwhelming.
No one is expecting any artist to perfect their sound on the second go around, or even to ever have one staple sound. The last thing anyone wants is for their favorite artist to release an album that sounds like the same song was placed on it 10 times without change. As these artists grow and experience the world, their process of making music may be altered, and that isn't always a bad thing. Imagine Dragons continues to be phenomenal in the way that they make each new sound they take on their own. On their newest album Evolve
, it seems as though they may have found a sound that encompasses the sounds of both prior albums–but also manages to show how much the band has grown over the years. The leading singles "Believer" and "Thunder" gave the impression that this album would follow a path more similar to Night Visions,
but upon release it was conveyed that Evolve
carved a passage all of its own.
Rather than having to make the choice between dreamy and hardcore, listeners receive both, as shown in tracks like "Rise Up" and "I'll Make It Up To You." While it's nice to have that balance at times, you may also want to be able to choose one or the other. Thankfully, Imagine Dragons is remarkable and comes through with music for every mood and occasion. "Mouth of the River" presents itself as a classic rock song complete with lyrics about being self destructive, whereas "Yesterday" and "Whatever It Takes" are classic, unparalleled, Imagine Dragons rock. These are the tracks that get you excited about draining your bank account to buy tickets to the Evolve Tour just so you can experience them live–in my experience, if you don't look at your balance after you make a purchase it doesn't hurt as much.
Many of Imagine Dragons' songs are self-empowering, and focus on combating vices in the world around you. That being said, it's always a nice surprise to stumble across a love song of theirs every now and then. In "Walking the Wire," Dan sings, "There's tears we'll cry, but those tears will fade / It's the price we pay when it comes to love / And we'll take what comes," making it a more romantic track considering the ups and downs of what it means to be in a relationship. We get this same kind of vibe in a much bolder way on the first track of the album "I Don't Know Why." This track is rocky through and through, with the exception of the bridge in which Dan repeatedly whispers, "tell me that you love me," before returning to the chorus. I have to say, the rarity of tracks that contain this kind of content easily sets them apart from the rest of the album.
Another rare aspect of Imagine Dragons' music is songs that lean more towards a electronic-pop sound, as the final two tracks on Evolve
do. "Start Over" poses a Galantis-esque sound for a majority of the track, and "Dancing in the Dark" slows it down a bit more to create a song unlike anything else they've done before. The track diversity presented on Evolve
just confirms my belief that there truly isn't anything this band can't do. Just by listening and absorbing what it is that you're hearing, it's clear how much time and hard work went into crafting this album, which makes the fact that we had to wait 3 years for it a little less upsetting. The case for the first two albums was that the deluxe version was released a few months following the original release, which allows for the journey of said album to continue on for a little longer. Hopefully history will repeat itself with this album as well, because 11 tracks of this magnitude just isn't enough–we need more.