About two weeks ago I discovered Twenty One Pilots, while stumbling across their video for “Guns for Hands” I was captivated by the duo, Tyler Joseph (vocals, piano, programming) and Josh Dun (drums, percussion, programming) who radiated artistic peculiarity. I immediately searched for more, discovering the single “Holding Onto You” I was smitten and my timing was perfect, with their first album under a major label, Vessel being released January 8. If you’re fans of Twenty One Pilots you’ll recognize some of the songs on Vessel as they were featured on their indepndent release Regional At Best.
The way that Tyler Joseph raps reminds me of sitting in a coffee shop on poetry night, watching a slam poetry. In the song “Car Radio” which is a great song, a majority of the lyrics are spoken not sang, but it builds up to a climactic end where Joseph cries out, pretty intensely, “And now I just sit in silence!” Joseph’s rapping style could pass as ordinary if not combined with the fury lyrics and heavy instrumentation. “I find over the course of our human existence one thing consists of consistence and it’s that we’re all battling fear oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here oh my, too deep please stop thinking, I liked it better when my car had sound.” I wonder if Eminem is a musical influence for Joesph, the intense honesty and sometimes rage in his lyrics is evident. Joseph definitely has a more schizoid style than Eminem, as their music has been described as ‘Schizoid Pop’ Joseph even alludes to it on “Semi-Automatic” “I’m semi-automatic, my prayers schizophrenic,” and it’s portrayed in their video “Guns for Hands.” Joseph performs like he wants to jump out of his skin, maybe he just suffers from ADD, but either way I can imagine what an emotional process his song writing must be. It’s very appealing, for one, girls cream over that stuff, we love a boy who can be honest and show his feelings. Also, it leads way to an energetic performance which is always fun to see.
Most of the tracks on the album are very catchy and are layered with many elements, especially the great piano melodies, which I love. “Ode To Sleep” is the opening track, and the intro is a massive EDM beat that mellows into a melodic chorus. A lot of the songs have a sea-saw effect where it bounces from high pounding beats and Joseph’s rapping to softer vocals. It would seem Joseph may struggle with sleep and nightmares, which is referenced in lyrics throughout the album. They say you must suffer for your art, so if Joseph’s restless sleeping contributes to his spastic personality then so be it, it works for him. “Holding On To You” is the current single, and along with “Guns for Hands” I think are the strongest songs on the album. The song is quickly becoming a favorite in the radio world and played often on alternative rock stations. Another stand out track is “Migraine” and gives us another insight into Joseph’s world as he raps “Thank god it’s Friday, cause Fridays will always be better than Sundays, cause Sundays are my suicide days” / “Sometimes death seems better than the migraine in my head.” Well, I know how you feel Joseph, migraines are the worst and you just want to rip your head off, but let’s take a prescribed Triptan and move along. Even with all the sleepless nights, nightmares, migraines, and sometimes dark lyrics most of the songs are joyful and fun. Many get easily annoyed by the ever growing new music genres, now with ‘Schizoid Pop’ added to the list, but labels don’t bother me much, if I like what I hear that’s all that matters. For me, there has to be something more than the phenomenon of electric dance beats to keep me coming back for more, and they’ve got it. The final track “Truce,” is a quiet piano ballad and the shortest song on the album, at just under two and half minutes.
Twenty One Pilots may be criticized for their all over the place tempo changes and have you questioning what it is exactly they are trying to achieve, but I think as the group progresses they will secure themselves with a more precise way of developing their music. There is definite buzz about Twenty One Pilots, and they are quite a mystery. There isn’t much revealed about the duo on their website other than a philosophical response of their intentions: “What is our purpose for playing music? We are constantly asking ourselves that question. The answer can change all the time, but for right now we are just going to stick with something as simple as we want to make people think.” One thing is for sure, these two will definitely make you think.