Night Visions

Imagine Dragons

Interscope, 2012

http://www.imaginedragonsmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/15/2013

I was a little (okay, a lot) late to the party with this one, the debut from Las Vegas arena rockers Imagine Dragons, which dropped in September. But in the case of good albums, it’s better late than never, right? I initially wrote them off because lead single “It’s Time” – despite being a solid slice of jangly pop with a deceptively dark undercurrent – blurred together with so much of the palatable pop rock singles that light up the radio for a quick second. But then came second single “Radioactive,” which immediately grabbed my attention (which is hard to do these days, as the amount of reading in grad school has ensured that I listen to a lot of library-silence instead of cool new music).

But back to “Radioactive:” it’s a potent combination of stomping stabs of drums, shimmering guitars, and vocalist Dan Reynolds’ commanding performance on this apocalyptic, strangely stunning opening track. It gives the sense that Imagine Dragons, for all their pop sensibility, have some substance to them, too. There’s an edge, an undercurrent of despair that sets Imagine Dragons apart from, say, a band like OneRepublic, who has a similar pop sensibility and ability to craft stick-in-your-head singles but without the staying power. 

For instance, tracks like “Bleeding Out” and “Demons,” though buoyed by the sheer, expansive beauty of the instrumentation, are lyrically quite dark. “No matter what we breed / We are still made of greed…Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside / It’s where my demons hide,” Reynolds croons, and it’s only on repeated listens that you realize that “Demons” is half love song, half warning sign. Moments like these give nbtc__dv_250 Night Visions its depth and dimension, making for a captivating release all the way through.

This is a pop album at its core, albeit a diverse array of catchy, feel-good songs designed to captivate stadiums. I can imagine almost every song on Night Visions being a single, from the driving power pop of “Tiptoe” to the hand-clapping, uplifting jauntiness of “On Top Of The World.” Every chorus here demands to be sung along to.

Meanwhile, the cohesiveness of the album belies the fact that the band experienced a lineup overhaul before being signed to Interscope Records in 2011; the original members released three EPs before bringing in current drummer Daniel Platzman to play with Reynolds, guitarist Wayne Sermon, and bassist Ben McKee. Almost immediately, lightning struck with “It’s Time,” which hit #15 on the Billboard charts, with the album not following far behind. Night Visions made quick work of selling 83,000 copies, reaching #2 on the charts – the highest debut for a rock album since 2006.

And it only takes a couple of spins of this disc to see why. Every song here brings something captivating to the table, whether it’s doing the Killers one better on the soaring “Hear Me” or the nine minute odyssey of “Nothing Left To Say/Rocks,” which is a textured, driving anthem. Meanwhile, “Amsterdam” is another favorite, an excellent amalgamation of Reynolds’ alluring vocals, a propulsive interplay between the bassline and the guitar, and the slow-burning chorus: “Your time will come if you wait for it / It’s hard, believe me, I’ve tried.” It’s also one of those cuts where you know there’s a rich backstory, because it closes out with the haunting line, “But I won’t wait much longer / ‘Cause these walls they’re crashing down / And I keep coming up short.”

It’s these instances – the indelible combination of evocative lyrics and layered, pop-oriented instrumentation – that make Night Visions so resonant. It’s stylish and sweet at times, but it’s also strangely haunting in a way that sticks with you. This is not just a promising debut but a strong release in general, and I can only imagine that these songs are even better in a live setting – so check Imagine Dragons out if they’re in your city!

Rating: A-

User Rating: C-


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