Music: The Recorded Evolution of Imagine Dragons

By James

This Indie band was skirting around the peripherals of my music-radar for some time before my cousin enlightened me. He told me to check out the Night Visions album. However, when I went to search for this new, intriguing group with a name that was all too attractive, the content was blocked. It wasn’t a great start. A dispute with Spotify perhaps? Not a clue but, they’re an amalgamation of The Killers, Green Day and Coldplay... Sort of, he said. This lead me to investigate ID from their beginning. I did a small amount of digging and found as much recorded work as I could. From the earliest to the latest, this is what I found:

Imagine Dragons (EP) - 2009

Recorded at Battle Born Studios, 2009 saw the release of Imagine Dragon’s self-produced first EP, featuring 5 tracks. The indie songs give a strong feeling of 80’s pop with its techno/electro vibe and its heavy bass. It’s very catchy and worth a listen, even if it is some distance from the more polished hits of their contemporary, mainstream work.

The band seem to be unclearly defined with this EP; they seem to be attempting the creation of a new genre or quirky sub-genres of pop, dance or indie-alternative. In this initial demonstration, it becomes apparent that they have some work to do in order to achieve the end game that we all know them for. As a starting point though, altogether, a strong first contender.

Hell and Silence (EP) - 2010

It’s hard to pin down Imagine Dragons in terms of genre. They regularly flit between driving rock to synthesized techno which makes for an all-together fulfilling listening experience. Hell and Silence (their second EP, also recorded at Battle Born Studios) seems, largely, disjointed; guitar riffs and bridges apparently thrown in which are either misplaced or just outright peculiar. That being said, the end result somehow holds together and doesn’t prevent you from toe-tapping along, especially with the likes of ‘Hear Me’. With less identity to the first EP, I feel like the band were experimenting - to a degree; refining sounds and finding flare they were happy with.

It’s Time
(EP) – 2011, Continued Silence (EP) – 2012, Hear me (EP) - 2012

Recorded inside of Studio X at the Palms Hotel and Casino (It’s Time) and Westlake Recording Studios (Continued Silence, Hear Me) these would become the skeleton of the band’s fame and rise to popularity. All EPs received a variety of awards and accolades from peaking at number 15 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ with It’s Time to working with Grammy-winning sound engineers on Continued Silence and Hear Me – The EPs that were released in the US and UK/Europe prior to their debut album.

In my opinion, this is when Imagine Dragons hit the nail on the head. They had landed and established themselves as a pop-rock force to be reckoned with. Almost all tracks are well-constructed, catchy and full of purpose; exhibiting a wide-range of musical ability and creativity. After being bashed for somewhat lacklustre content, these EP’s would go on to create their defining moment as a band.

Night Visions (Album) - 2012

This was the main event. The following tour was phenomenal and to this day, The Night Visions album (which is awesome, through and through) is their greatest work.

It was their debut studio album and they blew it out of the park. It was released on September 4, 2012, through KIDinaKORNER and Interscope Records, exhibiting folk, pop, rock, hip pop and electro/disco/techno craziness. It’s the same creativity and imagination that was pumped into It’s Time  and Continued Silence. Whilst the album received mixed reviews (despite earning double platinum status and having ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’ spend 60 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, among many other feats and achievements) it has become a firm favourite with fans. It doesn’t matter what your taste of music is, there is likely at least one track that you will enjoy.

If you listen to no other items on this list, give this one a go. Stick it on Spotify on the way to work and let the music do the rest.

Smoke and Mirrors (Album) - 2015

After an additional EP called ‘The Archive’ to promote the deluxe version of Night Visions, a wildly successful tour; new levels of fame and fortune; huge amounts of awards and all the bits in between, the highly anticipated second studio album was released by Interscope Records and KIDinaKORNER on February 17, 2015.

Despite debuting at number one in both the US and UK charts, it received varied reviews from the critics – this time it was for a reason.

The album is not half as sensational as its predecessor. Whilst I appreciate the band were not likely to appear as fresh and original as they once were, they did not seem to put anywhere near as much care into the album. There just seems to be no craft, not as much fire in the second instalment of their studio album journey. There are a few tracks worth a listen or two. Just entertaining enough to see the song through to the end, however the majority seem largely repetitive and without any sense of progression.

I was disappointed. It’s magic when a band outperforms their debut album with their second but this is not one of those occasions. If you’re a fan of the first one then it is worth a listen just to get a small fix of the ‘Dragons’ new content (presumably you’ve listened to the first album so much you sing it in your sleep...)

Evolve (Album) - 2017

Now, we come to the impetus for this post - the third studio album released on June 23, 2017 through KIDinaKORNER and Interscope Records. I have listened to this album back to back a good half a dozen times and whilst it is an improvement on Smoke + Mirrors, it is still not up to the mark that was left by Night Visions.

After a hiatus and array of mixed messages from the band, they generated a relative amount of hype for their third album, dubbing it an ‘evolution’ for the band, but in reality, I’m not sure I see (or hear) it. Whilst the opening few tracks are very nearly good songs, they fall short at the anti-climactic choruses and there are later tracks that fail to evoke any emotion at all. It really is a mixed blessing. That being said, there are a couple of stonkers. ‘Walking the Wire’ and ‘Rise Up’ being particular favourites of mine, outranking many previous favourites. They need to be played loud and they need to be shouted along to... Loud.

Lastly, we come to myriad of tracks that they have produced for multiple reasons (primarily films... they must pay well...).

Monster – Infinity Blade III – 2013
Who We Are – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – 2013
Warriors – League of Legends 2014 World Championship, 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Battle Cry – Transformers: Age of Extinction - 2015
All For You
- Transformers: Age of Extinction - 2015
I Was Me
– One4 Project - 2015
– Smoke + Mirrors Tour – 2015-2016
Not Today
– Me Before You – 2016

Sucker For Pain ­– Suicide Squad - 2016
Levitate – Passengers – 2017

Most of these are actually pretty decent. They’ve also done enough to release a mini-album, which is great news for any fans out there that have already exhausted all of their music so far. I thoroughly recommend ‘Warriors’ as it is a powerful track with Mr. Reynolds yelling most of it which is very pleasing to hear (for me at least... I think I have anger issues...). The only anomaly in this little list is ‘All For You’. This track is not in any obtainable form and so if you want to hear it, you’ll need to watch the film. To be honest, I don’t think it would be hard to release it as a stand-alone single, but what do I know?

All in all, I think they have been riding their own, Night Vision coat-tails for a little too long now. It’s time they either evolved (properly) or spent a decent amount of time crafting pieces with the musical ability we know they have. They’ve proven they can do it so take some time and do it again, please? I know there is more depth to you than what we’ve witnessed in recent years. Blow my mind again!

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