Imagine Dragons exploded onto the scene in 2012 with their hit singles “Radioactive,” “Demons,” and “It’s Time”. The alternative rock band consists of lead vocalist Dan Reynolds, lead guitarist Wayne Sermon, bassist Ben McKee, and drummer Daniel Platzman. Their previous two albums, Night Visions and Smoke + Mirrors crushed the charts in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and their newest album released in 2017, Evolve, is no exception. It debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts, and it has a more pop rock feel with hip hop and electronic vibes flowing through it.
“I Don’t Know Why” opens the door to the album with an eerie synth pacing back and forth and aggressive, heavily reverbed vocals piercing through the dark. The setting switches up after the first verse, and the percussion appears with a stomp-clap beat. Reverb plays a large role throughout this whole album, which gives it a spacey, far away feel.
The next song, “Whatever It Takes,” has quick, staccato vocals and a nice groove running through it. This track definitely has a more hip hop/electronic vibe than the rest of the album. The lead vocals go legato for the chorus and the instrumentals smooth out. “Whatever It Takes” is a drum-driven song, like a lot of the other songs on Evolve. Because it is about working hard and succeed even though everyone is just waiting for you to fail, it has a reverbed, floaty guitar which gives it strong feelings of hopes and dreams.
“Believer” is truly the star of the album. It is the biggest single from Evolve, and It is abrasive, percussion driven, and intense without being too heavy. This song is about accepting pain and struggle as a part of your life and using it to help yourself grow as a person. The vocals are gritty and aggressive as Reynolds is basically thanking pain for making him into the person he is today. This song is really inspirational and motivating without really sounding like it.
Next up is “Walking the Wire,” which is strikingly different from all of the previous songs on this record. The mood is softer and brighter by the gentle acoustic guitar. This track seems like it would fit
the best in Night Visions compared to the rest of Evolve, but it still has that new age ambience. The vocals start small, but they escalate into these passionate, confident melodies for the chorus, which is perfect for a love song.
“Rise Up” is another uplifting song, but it is not as tough and thunderous as “Believer” because it is not as aggressively drum driven. The lead vocals are full of effects, like distortion and filters. The strings panning through the field during the bridge adds a tenderness to the moment. Reynolds’ vocals are soft and airy like a flute, and then they crash back into the chorus, and the contrast is amazing.
“I’ll Make It Up To You” is a slow, warm, and loving track placed in the middle of the album. This song gives listeners a momentary break from the high energy songs before it. It is about being good to your partner, and fixing the mistakes you have made in the relationship. “I’ll Make It Up To You” has less of a dynamic range and it is less instrumentally dense, but that adds to its soft demeanor. The synth in the background does it give it some more energy and pop. Apology is not easy, and you are very exposed when you are admitting your wrongs. The sparse piano in the bridge adds to the vulnerability of the section and the song.
Next is “Yesterday,” which is laden with layered harmonies slathered with filters. This song has a different vocal approach; Reynolds’ voice is much more laid back for the verses, and the words are much less enunciated. The clapping as percussion takes the edge off the song, giving it a friendlier aura.
“Mouth of the River” enters with a synth that gives it a futuristic energy; however, the chant-like vocals make it seem a little tribal. Like many of the other songs on the record, “Mouth of the River” is very drum heavy. The electric guitar that is loaded up with effects in the bridge solidify the space aura of the song.
Another song with sparse instrumentation, “Thunder” mainly features snapping and some drum programming. This track has the feel of an urban summer; bright and pleasant yet still reminiscent of hip
hop. The instrumentals pick up towards the end to increase momentum, and then it all fades out with rain and thunder sound effects, which was a very smart choice on Imagine Dragons’ part.
“Start Over” is a cool-toned, R&B meets rock fusion. Yet again, we get to experience Reynolds’ impassioned, commanding vocals in the chorus. The flute that floats throughout the song injects a gentleness that balances out the intensity of the vocals. The drums/percussion and flute definitely take center stage in this song, which gives it an interesting flavor different from the other tracks on the album.
Lastly, we have “Dancing in the Dark” to close out the album. There is a strong hip hop beat and a filter over the lead vocals, making this track very radio friendly. It is a lower energy, sleepy song to say goodbye to Evolve.
Overall, I give Evolve a 4/5. It is definitely a fun album that still maintains Imagine Dragons’ sound and vibe. Evolve aims to put the hope back into listeners’ hearts by sharing personal stories of hardship turned into triumph. The messages throughout the whole record were positive and inspiring. These songs are what we need to hear in a world that seems to be falling apart more and more by the day.