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Imagine Dragons | Origins

The Las Vegas pop-rockers continue their musical evolution — but to what end?

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Evolution isn’t necessarily everything it’s cracked up to be. Case in point: Origins, the Charles Darwin-titled fourth studio release from Las Vegas pop-rockers Imagine Dragons and (fittingly enough) the followup to last year’s Evolve. If you come here looking for massive radio hits with inescapable pop earworms, you might be disappointed. Aside from the bombastic opener Natural and the zippy cartoon-soundtrack cut Zero, most of the disc finds Ben Reynolds and his bandmates testing their toes in new waters, experimenting with softer tones, slower gaits, less pointed hooks, quirkier approaches and different musical styles from soothing folk to aggressive electronica. Which is undoubtedly admirable and all, but to what end? A lot of it feels random, disjointed, unfocused and arbitrary, as if they’re just throwing anything and everything at the wall to see if anything sticks. Plus, they have to know they’re unlikely to convert legions of new fans or earn more artistic respect at this point in their career, but stand a good chance of driving away longtime admirers who aren’t exactly thrilled with their new direction (or lack thereof). So you have to give them some points for trying, but ultimately it’s hard to discern whether this represents a musical evolution, a new beginning, or just a momentary detour in their lengthy career. So it’s hard to imagine what the Dragons were thinking here.