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Imagine Dragons Take a Lighter Approach to Heavy Life Stuff on ‘Loom’

Imagine Dragons never got the memo that this is supposed to be an era of diminishing returns for big, ambitious, overbearing, oversharing pop-rock bands. It’s been more than a decade since they released their career-making hits “Demons” and “Radioactive,” yet they remain staples of modern rock radio as well as any high school football weight room where the coach won’t allow swear-y rap. This summer, as a number of major acts have had to scale back their tours, the Dragons are out supporting Loom, their sixth album, with shows in 20,000 seat sheds. The LP continues the mix of heavy emotions and musical elasticity that’s made them arena mainstays. “Been gone, I’m facing horrors that should never be said,” frontman Dan Reynolds informs us early on, piloting a torrent of personal apocalypse on a life raft built from hip-hop, alt-rock, and EDM.

The Las Vegas band’s last record was the double album, Mercury, which they released in two separate Acts. This time out, they weigh in with a relatively concise nine tracks, once again made with the help of their longtime collaborators, Swedish production duo Mathaman & Robin (Taylor Swift, Tove Lo, Brittany Spears). Stress abounds on the opening track “Wake Up,” a bro-rap anthem about how to keep it together in a world where “everybody’s coming for you” and there’s “bodies dropping everywhere.” Lead single “Eyes Closed” recalls the moody stomp of “Radioactive,” as Reynolds sings about searching for mental clarity beyond medications, mantras, and meditations.

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When they first showed up, Imagine Dragons were early adapters to the notion that you can mix and match various radio formats as long as the overall balance of why me angst and push through catharsis remained believable amidst all the savvy genre-juggling. By now they’re old hands at it. J Balvin lends some Spanish verses to a bonus-track remix of “Eyes Closed,” significantly upping its energy. “Kid” is an obsequiously spot-on Gorillaz homage. “Take Me to the Beach” piles up everyday, everyman grievances before hitting an escapist, Corona-lifting chorus, landing somewhere between an old-school rap-rock rant and a Jimmy Buffett beer o’clock bromide. “Fire In These Hills” is reflective, light-touch dance-pop with a sad, yacht-y sax melody. The album’s most enjoyable moment is its lightest, “Nice to Meet You” a flirty, fleet-grooved tune that’s as bright and warm as Coldplay at their most starry-eyed. Reynolds, who was recently divorced, sings about the myriad complications of pursuing a new crush, and the result is an honest depiction of a middle-aged guy fumbling his way back out there after a long time on the shelf.

Other songs take a harder look at post-breakup affliction, like the piano ballad “Don’t Forget Me” and the more self-pitying “In Your Corner.” To his credit, even at his most bitter, there’s usually a Chris Martin-ian equanimity in his voice and writing, like he’s learning from his angst, not just wallowing in it. “Every day wondering towards our North Star/Guess we got lost in the light,” he sings with real empathy and searching resignation. on “Don’t Forget Me.” Such kind-vibes moments show that within the vast spaces these guys work in, there’s always room for growth.

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