When lead singer Dan Reynolds stated that Imagine Dragons was an “atypical band,” he meant the opposite of what conclusion you might come to. The rock group is atypical for being, well, typical people — not necessarily the drugged-out hyper-artsy types.

Smoke + Mirrors

Imagine Dragons

The group isn’t constantly turning creative corners, and its mass appeal doesn’t just accumulate album sales, but many radio hits as well — longevity that’s proven to be unattainable for pop-rock groups of the past few years. Its willingness to make commercially reasonable decisions (like its recent $8 million live Target ad-performance during the Grammys) is what keeps the wheels turning on this record, released on the heels of its internationally acclaimed Night Visions.

The group was off to a rocky start with its record’s lead single “I Bet My Life,” which fell somewhere between a Mumford & Sons hit and the instrumental track for a coming-of-age themed movie trailer, but eventually found its former sonic footing in the release of its follow-up promotional singles — the pop-hot “Shots” and sonically biting “Gold.”

Take Imagine Dragons for what it is — a producer-driven band as a front for Reynolds’ vocal performances — and you’ll find wise decision-making left and right, such as re-hiring Alex Da Kid for another round. The “Love the Way You Lie” producer engineers the group’s notoriously gritty synths that come with an edge of hip-hop beat samples (which often overstep any sense of being a rock band, but successfully separate Imagine Dragons from pansy-pop-rock groups like Maroon 5 and Coldplay).

However, that being said, Imagine Dragons retains some Coldplay-esque leans. The album is sequenced to balance every bass-pounding track with a treble-driven counterpart (hence introducing the record with “Shots,” swapping to a hard-hitting “Gold,” switching back to an airier “Smoke + Mirrors,” and trading off from there on out). But given how Coldplay underwhelmed with Ghost Stories — the watered-down follow-up to its widespread Mylo Xyloto electro-rock success — perhaps there’s some wiggle room for Imagine Dragons to expand on the newfound gap.

The Las Vegas band has the luxury of being able to linger around in its same style for this sophomore record, but might not be so fortunate in its plans for the coming year. Pop-rock artists fall victim to monotony more so than any others, and a sonic do-over is in order for album number three.

There continues to be some ‘smoke and mirrors’ that surround Imagine Dragon’s productions, and its “night visions” tend to be somewhat narrow, but the group’s upfront honesty regarding its standing in commercialized rock has managed to keep the topic out of the limelight. And there’s something to be said about maintaining the writing credits within its work.

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