Top 25 Albums of 2012: #3 – Imagine Dragons – Night Visions…

ImDrag

It’s a little crazy how quickly I became a fan of Imagine Dragons. This summer I bought a ticket to see Awolnation, and I soon saw that Imagine Dragons was the opening band. Who? Never heard of ’em. Then a friend played me “It’s Time” soon after. I liked it. It sounded a bit different. I went out and got the EP Continued Silence, which served as a sampler almost to the full album. Then the album came, and I loved it, and then I saw them in concert. After seeing this band play their hearts out for a good 45 minutes and blowing my mind with their power as a band and their clarity in their vocals and instruments in a live mix, Awolnation sadly didn’t carry the torch and felt a bit less special and their mix sounded muddy. Game point Imagine Dragons.
Night Visions in a way is a greatest hits so far of the band. They had already released three download-only EP’s, Imagine Dragons EP, Hell and Silence, and It’s Time. In the time between the latter and the Continued Silence EP, the first major label release this spring, the band lost 5th member Brittany Tolman, who lends a very noticeable layer to the vocals. Three of the EP tracks were remixed slightly and added to the album, namely “Amsterdam”, “It’s Time” and “Hear Me”. Three newer songs from Continued Silence made it to the album also, these being “Radioactive”, “Demons” and “On Top Of The World”. This leaves five brand new songs and a list of bonus tracks depending which version of the album you have.
“Radioactive” is the guns a-blazing opener. The giant kettle drum pound of the opening line “I’m waking up to ash and dust” has to be felt in person to get the full effect, but it captures you right from the start. The track has a wobbly almost dubstep bass line beneath a hard rocking crawl, and the kick drum that makes me want to pound on something to the beat. I noticed quickly that the songs are on the short side. When they end and move to the next song I feel like there might be more after the pause. “Tiptoe” marches in with drum line reminiscent of early U2, but with added keyboards. “It’s Time” is next, and was one of the biggest rock songs of the year that came almost out of the blue to most people, despite the fact it was originally released last year to no attention. The song is a soaring expression of the lack of need to fit in, “Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check”. Funny how the song about not fitting in becomes their huge hit.
One thing ID gets here is how to use percussion. On “It’s Time” they use stomps and hand claps. Later for “On Top of The World” they use wood blocks, that give a childlike joy to a song about finally starting to see your dreams realized. .In concert they use all of this percussion, rather than cheat and strip down to just drums. This makes a lot of difference. Between these two tracks is “Demons”, a slower but quite emotional track that uses an electronic drum loop on top of the live drums. Sadly one mark against this album, which is too apparent here, is that the bass drums were peaked *so* loud in the production that the overall sound mix distorts. Many people may not notice this, but for me I can’t ignore it. Despite this, the songs are so good I have to try to suppress my inclinations to gripe.
On way to more good music. “Amsterdam” has a drum beat, bass and guitar that are again in the vein of War-era U2 but a melody that isn’t U2 at all. “Hear Me” is a big highlight, a song about feeling insignificant and having irrational fear. “Maybe if I fall asleep I won’t breathe right”. “Every Night” is their wary-of-the-road song it seems, dreaming of coming home every night. That’s a luxury bands don’t often get. “Bleeding Out”, again with great use of percussion to counter the instantly catchy melody, is one of the standout tracks. “Underdog” is the oddball track here, with a cheesy keyboard driving the song, and sounding like a cross between 80s synth pop and a vacation commercial. Which would be bad if the song itself weren’t so open and honest. Dammit. The finale is “Nothing Left to Say” which takes on a darker feel and is a fitting last song with an orchestrated and beautiful closing section. If only it were the last song. After some continued silence (*eyeroll*), we get the all-too-short “Rocks”, which has a somewhat Celtic meets African feel. This hidden track is the basis of a much longer and more satisfying opener the band played to open their show I attended and really showcased the band’s jamming talents.

Now on to the bonus tracks…

Best Buy Version:
“Selene”:   Salvaged from Hell and Silence. A little more keyboard driven than the recent tracks, but catchy and worthy.
“The River:   From the It’s Time EP. This was a good song to give a second life to. Very dreamy with its layers of guitar and vocals.

iTunes Version:
“Working Man”:   New song. No not a Rush cover. Imagine! Imagine Imagine Dragons reimagining Rush! But this is a really upbeat track about the economy recovering. Slightly corny but good nonetheless and puts a smile on my face.
“Fallen”:   Another new song, and it definitely is a b-side compared to the others. But a quite enjoyable b-side.
“Round and Round” and “My Fault”:   Both tacked on from Continued Silence. They really should be here. Both are top notch tracks, especially “My Fault”

Spotify Version:
“Cha Ching (Til We Grow Older)”: This is an odd duck. Quite a good new song, but then there’s a children singalong chorus that makes the song a bit weird. Not bad, just weird.

That turns the 11 and a half short tracks to a whopping 18+ if you seek them out. But the songs are so damn enjoyable that it’s worth it.

Pick up the deluxe edition of Night Visions on CD or MP3 for only $6.99 HERE:

DELUXE CD | DELUXE MP3 | STANDARD VERSION VINYL

Check out some great videos from the album:

“It’s Time”

“Radioactive”

“Demons”:

“On Top Of the World”

and a full show from the Lowlands festival 2013:

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