Less than a year and a half after releasing the double-platinum album “Evolve” and crisscrossing the globe on a 100-date tour, Imagine Dragons is back with a dozen new songs on its intriguing follow-up album “Origins.”
If “Evolve” was the band stalking around as an arena powerhouse, “Origins” (Interscope/KIDinaKORNER) is its quirky little sister, making cool stuff in her bedroom.
Don’t let the first single, “Natural,” fool you. Its bombastic, fist-pumping bravado seems to promised more of the same on “Origins,” but the band drifts into other areas, like the blissed-out summer jam “Cool Out” that could be on a DNCE album, and the gloriously anarchic, disruptive “Digital,” which plays with dub step and chops itself into pieces.
The album sees the Dragons again reteaming with producers Alex da Kid and Mattman & Robin — who have delivered some of the band’s biggest hits. But, to everyone’s credit, they’re not just doing more of the same.
“Bullet in a Gun” is fresh, with unpredictable electronic flourishes. The club-ready “Only” has interesting tempo shifts and unexpected layered parts. “West Coast” is basically a folky tune that could happily sit in a Lumineers album.
Lyrically, “Origins” dwells on alienation and the band’s own uncomfortable relationship to its own fame. On “Bullet in a Gun,” lead singer Dan Reynolds notes sadly: “To make a name you pay the price.”
The Dragons also explore a dehumanizing digital world, as with their plea for “Love,” on which Reynolds sings about everyone tuning out shocking news: “We put on our headphones.” Elsewhere, he screams: “I’m not a part of your machine/I am the machine.”
The new album extends the band’s flirtation with Charles Darwin — taking its name from “On the Origin of Species” and coming right after “Evolve.” In some ways, the names should be reversed: “Origins” shows the band’s sound is evolving.