Imagine Dragons, “Origins” (Interscope)
Imagine Dragons continue cutting their own path connecting rock and pop with “Origins,” the companion album to last year’s “Evolve.”
And the more singer Dan Reynolds and friends do it, the better they get.
That part is clear on “Natural” — the album’s first single, which has already topped the rock charts for three months — as Reynolds shows new dynamics to his voice, rather than simply the intensity that has pushed the Las Vegas band up the charts.
It’s impressive to hear them try new things, like the bouncy pop of “Zero,” which uses the upbeat music to offer support for the seriousness raised in the chorus of “Let me tell you what it’s like to be a zero, zero.” On the laid-back “Cool Out,” which sounds more like Coldplay or even Gwen Stefani than the band that built “Radioactive,” Reynolds taps into his inner R&B crooner.
The poignant “Bad Liar,” sung from the point of view of a parent trying to comfort his kids, has lyrical risks that pay off spectacularly. It’s no wonder that “Origins” sounds like the start of something even bigger for Imagine Dragons.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Charles Bradley, “Black Velvet” (Dunham)
Powerhouse soul shouter Bradley died last year at 69, a particularly painful loss because his late-breaking time in the limelight lasted less than a decade. And — as anyone who ever saw “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” can attest — he came across as one of the warmest, most genuinely thankful-to-be-alive individuals ever to stand on a stage, which he would leave during shows in an attempt to hug everyone in the audience.
“Black Velvet” draws from sessions from three previous albums, taking its title from the alias Bradley used earlier in his career while fronting a James Brown cover band. The previously unreleased material includes covers of Neil Young (“Heart of Gold”), Nirvana (“Stay Away”) and Rodriguez (“Slip Away”). None are quite as choice as Bradley’s trademark transformation of Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” but the singer’s earnest outpouring of warmth always carries the day, even when he’s dropping lyrics from Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were” into “(I Hope You Find) The Good Life.” And though it initially seems kind of lame that the title track is an instrumental, it works as Bradley’s band’s moving tribute to their frontman, who died before cutting a vocal to the shimmering soul groove.
DAN DELUCA, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Mariah Carey, “Caution”
• Anderson.Paak, “Oxnard”
• John Mellencamp, “Other People’s Stuff”
• Smashing Pumpkins, “Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun”
• Mumford & Sons, “Delta”
• Little Mix, “LM5”
• Michael Bublé, “Love”
• Mark Knopfler, “Down the Road Wherever”
• P.O.D., “Circles”