Imagine Dragons, "Smoke + Mirrors" (Interscope)
Why does this feel like the most bombastic record we'll hear all year? Full of fist-pumping choruses and foot-stomping grooves, it plays like a long pep rally. Imagine Dragons makes rock that functions more or less as EDM, with the sleek synth textures, throbbing rhythms and emotional fever pitch. The Las Vegas band blows out familiar styles with bigger-is-better arrangements, as in "I Bet My Life," a blast of digitized Mumford & Sons arena folk, and the title tune, which sounds like Coldplay on human growth hormone. The band makes muscular jock jams of Arcade Fire's jittery disco rock ("Shots") and the Black Keys' fuzzy garage blues ("I'm So Sorry"). Yet for all the calculation, singer Dan Reynolds also comes off as hopelessly sincere. This CD puts across strong feelings, but it refuses to reveal how they work.
MIKAEL WOOD, Los Angeles Times
It's a treat to hear Van Morrison sing an upbeat tune, "Real Real Gone," reworked as a duet with Michael Bublé from Morrison's upcoming "Duets" CD. tinyurl.com/mw3ttt6