Tuned In: Imagine Dragons make thoughtful rock … moreCHUCK CAMPBELLScripps Howard News Service09-09-12
“NIGHT VISIONS,” Imagine Dragons (KIDinaKorner/Interscope)
Imagine Dragons is showier than the typical rock band, so it’s fitting that the group is based in Las Vegas, the showiest town of all.
This is no typical Vegas act, however. Its full-length debut, “Night Visions,” is rock and roll with unconventional nuance, both electronic and histrionic.
Frontman Dan Reynolds is a full-on extrovert, a plaintive voice for a theatrical sound that often includes clapping beats or grinding grooves. The themes are generally straightforward, and moods are frequently black and white. There’s the infectious tell-someone-you-love-them message in the upbeat “On Top of the World” and, by contrast, a darkness in the well-constructed ballad “Demons.”
At its best, the band sounds important and philosophical, even in foreboding circumstances, such as on the eerie, electronics-laden, angst-releasing “Hear Me.” A paranoid Reynolds frets, “Can nobody hear me? / I’ve got a lot that’s on my mind / I cannot breathe / Can you hear it, too?”
At its worst, the group occasionally sags into the mundane — as with the shrill and forgettable “Bleeding Out” and the lethargic track about commitment, “Every Night.”
Apropos for an album titled “Night Visions,” the release ends ethereally. Penultimate cut “Nothing Left to Say” finds an echo-effect Reynolds lying awake and looking at shadows on the wall, ironically indulging in the drawn-out refrain, “There’s nothing left to say now, give it up, give it up.”
And then closing track “Rocks” sails away on rolling rhythms and dreamy, layered whimsy. Imaginative guys, these Imagine Dragons.
Rating (five possible): 3-1/2
“GREATER THAN ONE,” Dwele (Entertainment One)
Dwele’s “Greater Than One” is described as “bedroom music,” though it might just as easily be the soundtrack for a long, hot bubble bath. And it also makes occasional trips to the club.
The 34-year-old singer-songwriter/producer has been an “adult urban” star since his 2003 debut, “Subject.”
“Greater Than One” is more luxurious than 2,000-thread-count silk sheets, and maybe just as frivolous.
Even the moodier cuts are saturated with romance. “Going Leaving” may be about a breakup, but the bumping beat sounds seductive. Also, the inviting two-step rhythm and guitar of “What Profit” camouflages the earnest message, “I’d rather lose everything than lose you.”
Dwele doesn’t have a one-track mind: The hypnotic percolation of “Must Be” (featuring J. Tait, L’Renee and Black Milk) is a tribute to Dwele’s native Detroit, and the festive “Patrick Ronald” (featuring Monica Blaire) is a tribute to Patron tequila.
His music may be derivative and obvious, but at least Dwele delivers it with style.
“THE SALESMAN AND THE SHARK,” Sean Rowe (Anti-)
Sean Rowe’s “The Salesman and the Shark” nearly buckles from the weight it carries. The heft of Rowe’s voice is rich and demanding, a cross of Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. Then there are his lyrics, penetrating and raw.
The alt-folk native of upstate New York, an avid naturalist on the side, is a baritone with a behemoth persona so strong that it almost gets in his way, almost makes him seem like a cartoonish, singing werewolf.
But in a bold move, Rowe puts it all out there. He doesn’t restrain the natural power of his voice, and he also doesn’t put it to cliched use with conventional soulful ballads and blustery blues.
Instead, Rowe experiments with his sound, which is consistently organic though stylistically far-flung. The results can be uneven. Still, Rowe generally prevails, whether he’s dishing disquiet against sobering acoustic guitar on “Signs” — with “I heard a train go by, then I thought of you” — or availing himself of bloodletting emotion in the galloping electricity of “Horses.”
It’s even better that his shifting tones don’t reveal an obvious strength in one niche. Rowe’s power is such that his simple introductory moans on “The Ballad of Buttermilk Falls” cast a pained pallor that the melodic beauty of the song never shakes.
Rowe takes chances and usually succeeds.
(Email Chuck Campbell of The Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel at Campbell(at)knews.com.)
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