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CD review: Imagine Dragons’ ‘Night Visions’

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Annie Zaleski

The Details

Imagine Dragons
NIght Visions
Three and a half stars

After self-releasing three EPs over the course of three years, Imagine Dragons hit the jackpot in late 2011, inking a deal with Interscope sub-imprint KIDinaKORNER. The first single from the LA-by-way-of-Las Vegas-and-Utah quartet for that label—mandolin-laden pop-folk ditty “It’s Time”—has been a mainstay on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart (No. 5 at press time) after receiving healthy radio airplay and MTV support.

“It’s Time” and three other songs from Continued Silence appear on Imagine Dragons’ Alex da Kid-produced first full-length, Night Visions. Longtime fans of the band should be happy to see older tunes “Hear Me” and “Amsterdam” in the tracklist, albeit in re-recorded form. (The boost this pair receives is slight but effective; “Hear Me” in particular morphs into a monstrous, widescreen keyboard-pop epic.)

These established tunes are a solid bridge between Imagine Dragons’ relatively unselfconscious past and its sleeker present. Of the new songs, the midtempo “Tip Top”— an effervescent throwback to ’80s Top 40 synth-pop—is by far the best, followed closely by “Bleeding Out,” with chunky hip-hop beats leading into a soaring chorus and frontman Dan Reynolds’ ragged, desperate vocals. Less successful is “Every Night,” a sappy love ballad with pedestrian lyrics (sample: “My mind is made up/Nothing can change that”); the squelching, Sesame Street-playful synth-funk tune “Underdog”; and the Vampire Weekend-y tropical-island throwaway “Rocks.”

Overall, Night Visions is well-crafted and wildly creative, and boasts solid songwriting—three things that are sorely missing on albums by so many younger bands. Still, its from-the-heart lyrics aren’t as emotionally resonant when cloaked in expansive layers of production; instead of sounding meaningful, they sometimes sound cheesy or overwrought. That Imagine Dragons now has the resources to fulfill its ambitious musical vision is both a blessing and a curse.

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