Artist: Imagine Dragons
Album: Night Visions
Genre: Indie, rock
Label: Interscope, KIDinaKORNER Records
Edging ever closer to brilliance, Imagine Dragons come tantalisingly close on their debut full-length Night Visions. This is at times a searing and exceedingly memorable album, but also one that can’t quite maintain the stroke of genius throughout. Halfway through, it seems to buckle under the weight of its own potential and lapses into more well-hewed and familiar territory. The first few tracks on here are blinding; brought to life with majesty and awe and highlighting many of the reasons the band seem to be on the tip of everybody’s tongue. One of Night Visions’ key strengths is its refusal to conform to any one particular sound and it tries on a dazzling array of styles as it goes along, the songs veering from adamant and brave to light-hearted and frivolous. This is, however, ultimately its undoing as the final few tracks seem to lack the creative spark that fuelled the record’s opening half, so that songs that might very well be good on their own seem to lack the necessary colour and liveliness.
For that opening half however, this is outstanding. The craft and musicianship recalls an earlier era, so much so that the dramatic electronic swell of “Tiptoe” might have you thinking the Drive soundtrack pushed 80s glamour back into the spotlight. All but one member of the band have been technically trained and it shows in the solid packaging and execution. “Tiptoe” in particular is sumptuously realised. It’s all ominous synths and brooding ambience and the sense of age gives it added stature and a sense of importance. It’s sensuous and alluring, a sublime escalation on the big, bombastic punch of opening track “Radioactive.” The latter, as with a number of the songs, has more than a hint of hip hop influence in its beats and effects. Combined with the emotive, nuanced vehemence of “It’s Time” (lately starring on the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower), these three songs give Night Visions an early air of thrill and adventure that’s completely endearing. The rhythmic chorus on “It’s Time” changes the song entirely, growing it from something more playful and guarded into a mature, captivating track with a sincere and loving tone.
The album diversifies gradually thereafter, introducing jollier fare such as “On Top of the World” and the mysterious folds of “Amsterdam.” This track seems hurried and often understated, yet it beams with an incredible sense of wonder. Songs like these demonstrate the wealth of styles one can expect from Imagine Dragons. It’s akin to clamorous musical attire, with each differing approach used to enhance the particular and personal aspects of the song. The band’s eagerness to experiment and fluid results serve them well, until they seem to take a breather and never quite regain the spark.
While the rest is good, it never comes within shouting distance of the magical splendour that informed the overture. “Hear Me” is an arching and exhilarating track but there’s more than a touch of Muse’s grandiose spectacle to it, which leaves it leaving derivative. “Every Night” is inherently ordinary, in a way that should be charming and wholesome but somehow manages to sound only like a bland pop also-ran. “Bleeding Out” manages to revive the sprawling, breathless feel of early on and it certainly sounds very epic and important. Yet, there’s something a bit too empty about the residual echo of the backing effects. “Nothing Left to Say/Rocks” is a stirring ending in and of itself, but it drags on for far too long.
Leaving aside these issues, Night Visions is a sublime listening experience and one with a unique ability to uplift and entrance. It ought to, indeed, leave such a vivid and tantalising mark that the later downturn will seem ineffectual. There’s a talent for something powerful and moving here that will endear Imagine Dragons to the masses, yet it’s also something very nascent, ensuring the music will become ever better with age and hinting at even more stunning feats in future.
Review written by Grace Duffy