Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons

This is one of Anie’s album reviews. I’ve limited myself to one sentence per song.

Smoke + Mirrors

Who Should Buy This: People who love emotionally driven experimental music, analytical music listening, world music influence, and hard driving beats.
Album: Smoke + Mirrors
Artist: Imagine Dragons
Genre: alternative, pop, rock
Music Rating: 8/10
Lyrics Rating: 8/10
Sounds Like: American Authors, Bastille, OneRepublic
One Sentence Summary: If Imagine Dragons were The Beatles, musically this album would be their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Best thing About this Album: The music and instrumentation so obviously throws any preconceived rulebook out the window, leaving only the most purposeful experimentations on how sounds and tones can affect, interpret, and describe human emotions.
One thing I wish was different: There are a few spots in the album where the experimentation is so fully dedicated, that it becomes less pleasant to casually listen to if you are not analytically in tune with the emotional conveyance of the sounds.
Website: Imagine Dragons

Tracks: 13
*Singles: 4
square logo Favorites: 5
This is a playlist of all of the songs from the album that will automatically play through the whole album. To skip to a particular song, click on the menu icon in the upper left-hand corner.

1. Shots* square logo
Music: 9
Lyrics: 8
This song sets the tone for the album with a super well-written, ridiculously catchy, and really deep, introspective apology of existence right out of the gate.
Can’t not talk about: That falsetto  on “there’s always time to change your mind”

2. Gold*
Music: 7
Lyrics: 8
This is a beautifully strange and tragic modern metaphor of the reality of King Midas’ lament which takes influence from a variety of world music and emotional sonic effects.
Can’t not talk about: This song explodes and radiates with the pure energy of raw emotion with every lyric, every tone, and every moment.

3. Smoke and Mirrors
Music: 7
Lyrics: 9
The seemingly bipolar nature of the music is a perfect expression of the heartbreaking struggle of being on both sides of an internal war, in this case fighting to retain your sense of reality and everything you’ve ever believed in.
Can’t not talk about: The potency of the music paired with the sentiment of wanting more than anything in the universe to keep believing, all the while feeling hope slipping through your fingers as you begin questioning everything.

4. I’m So Sorry* square logo 
Music: 9
Lyrics: 8
Here comes the turning point in the album where thoughts are processed giving reference to the previous tracks while a decision is reached to march into battle, taking back the power and control in a proclamation that your life is yours to steer and happiness is yours to create.
Can’t not talk about: The power in that battlecry of a musical motif really makes you feel invincible.

5. I Bet My Life*
Music: 8
Lyrics: 7
Another emotionally experimental track, this song is a calmer, more sincere apology, not for the person he is, but an attempt at reconciliation with those he still loves despite their ongoing disagreements and differences in viewpoints, telling them that he will remain as he is and love them as they are.
Can’t not talk about: “I’ve told a million lies, but now I’ll tell a single truth: there’s you in everything I do.”

6. Polaroid
Music: 7
Lyrics: 9
Beginning as a sad song with a deceivingly peppy beat, this is a self-deprecating lament of never feeling good enough even when life may appear to be “picture perfect” which continues into contemplation and conclusion that to be loved or appreciated by others will not fill the void inside of you any more than a bandaid will fix a bullet hole.
Can’t not talk about: The happy “doo-doo” vocalizations perfectly contrast the facade of a Polaroid with the actuality of an emotional emptiness.

7. Friction
Music: 5
Lyrics: 4
This song seems to draw some inspiration from Indian music in what could have been a beautiful rock fusion, which is unfortunately overshadowed with some harshness that is not my favorite.
Can’t not talk about: This song is so . . . strange? that it kind of leaves me a little speechless.

8. It Comes Back To You square logo
Music: 8
Lyrics: 9
While this track is perhaps the most musically “normal”, the lyrics feel purposefully intellectually strange and wonderful in a dream-like state of musing upon life, perspective, potential, and how the decision-making process affects the human experience.
Can’t not talk about: “I’ve been told just what to do, where to look and point my view.” and “You could call it cowardice, but leave me to my studied bliss.”

9. Dream
Music: 9
Lyrics: 7
Largely about coming to terms with the harsher reality of adulthood when childhood filters and perceptions fall away, this song feels like a heart in free fall when it realizes that the probability of dreams being reality is not likely to hold up to expectations.
Can’t not talk about: When the desperately persistent drums and background music stop and you are left in heartbreakingly eery solitude as Dan sings “But I wanna dream”

10. Trouble
Music: 7
Lyrics: 6
Reflecting back upon the lack of understanding and confusion in a younger self, this track sings of experiencing faithlessness from the perspective of a man who absolutely believes in faith.
Can’t not talk about: “Maybe you could save my soul from all the things that I don’t know”

11. Summer
Music: 8
Lyrics: 6
I’m not entirely sure how, but this song musically feels like a refreshing summer breeze while still maintaining its forward drive as the words speak of seizing the moment and becoming who you were meant to be.
Can’t not talk about: The prechorus of this song is out of this world incredible.

12. Hopeless Opus square logo
Music: 7
Lyrics: 9
The combination of quick, thoughtful intricacies in the lyrics with an incredibly potent melody will kind of knock you off of your feet with this song, and the remixed, confused thoughts and phrases in the bridge not only add interest and excitement musically, but really drive home the purpose of this song brilliantly.
Can’t not talk about: The deconstructed melodic reference to kung-fu fighting (most notably at the introduction of the song) both confused and amused me as I tried to discern if it was intentional or not, while the guitar on the outro was obviously intentional and had me giggling with the epicness and emotion of it all.

13. The Fall square logo
Music: 9
Lyrics: 9
Lyrically, I could not fathom a more perfect conclusion to this album, with impeccably subtle hints at previous thoughts, themes, and tracks as the hopes and heartbreaks discussed previously are acknowledged, respected, and reach resolution in a beautiful metaphor of the cycle of life.
Can’t not talk about: While most people see Fall as perhaps the most bleak and hopeless season where everything dies and heads into the darkness of winter, this song paints it in shades of gold and hopes for the renewal and rebirth that is an inherent promise in the death of familiarity.

Conclusion: This album is weird, and I love it.

square logo Denotes my favorites
* Denotes songs released as singles

Click here to read through Imagine Dragons lyrics (including all the songs from this album).


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