ARTIST: twenty øne piløts
RATING: 7 /10
WORDS: SARAH SHODIPE
For a band like twenty øne piløts, it’s easy to look in from the outside of what are all about and misunderstand or dismiss them. But look past the mish-mash of sounds and the deafening fanbase for a minute if you will – because objectively speaking, they are one of the most unique acts out there today; not to mention their meteoric rise to prominence over the last four years is basically the happiest accident in music in recent years. But all this has only raised the question of “what’s next?” what for the band. No matter how you feel about twenty øne piløts, or how invested you are, I don’t think anybody expected something as electric and intricate as ‘Trench.’
While every twenty øne pilots album has always had a concept of some sort running through it, ‘Trench’ takes this to another level. An audio representation of a world delicately made by Tyler Joseph, it serves as a continuation to the lyrical ideas and themes we saw on 2015’s ‘Blurryface’. But Trench also thrives as it sees them take their musical style to a whole new level too.
“No matter how you feel about twenty øne piløts, or how invested you are, I don’t think anybody expected something as electric and intricate as ‘Trench.’“
What’s funny is the first two songs that kick off the album present the two farthest ends of the twenty øne pilots sound spectrum. On one end, you have ‘Jumpsuit’, a rather conformist opening single with fairly straightforward lyrics, driven by a pumping bass line. But then we get ‘Levitate’ and its labyrinthine rap lyrics that explore the depths of Tyler Joseph’s psyche alongside distorted electronics, not to mention the eerie lyric “Welcome to Trench”, as it firmly establishes the album’s opening. Either way, this couplet of songs perfectly sets the precedence for the rest of the album.
Though the pacing on ‘Trench’ is certainly guilty of jumping around, almost every song on the album has its own moment. The likes of ‘Smithereens’ and ‘Legend’ feed into the more personal and heartfelt side of the record, whereas the darker anthems of ‘Nico and The Niners’ or ‘Morph’ expand the ‘Trench’ narrative while still being hard-hitting. Then we have something like ‘Pet Cheetah’, a token off-beat song with humourous imagery. But there’s three things all the songs have in common – those ever-powerful lyrics, the driving drums of Josh Dun, and Tyler Joseph’s significantly improved vocals.
Stylistically, the record is distinguished by its mix of traditionally pop instrumentation; the fourteen song tracklist formed of delicate pianos and driving bass, a staple of the twenty øne pilots sound. But more than that, it’s hard to ignore how ‘Trench’ is mainly minor in tone, yet almost every song is sprinkled with major chords that push the record a little further into the remit of a pop album, while also expertly fits in with the yellow and black motif of the record – instilling a theme of hope in the music.
“a heartfelt, passionate adventure, complete with an intimacy and vulnerability that threads the record together.”
If you’re searching for similarities between this release and 2015’s ‘Blurryface’, they exist here in multitudes. The structures are similar, as well as the thematic content, and even its subtle optimism. But what really makes this album a step up, is its moments of true earnest. ‘Bandito’ and ‘Leave The City’ are immediate standouts with their gentle but powerful delivery. ‘Neon Gravestones’ feels like something from the band’s back catalogue, but at the same time showcases their best songwriting on the record thus far, displaying the power of their lyrics and music in this important and emotional song.
If nothing else, ‘Trench’ succeeds at being a heartfelt, passionate adventure, complete with an intimacy and vulnerability that threads the record together. Every track offers something different, whilst still having a unique beauty to it that helps ‘Trench’ stand out not just as a record, but as a concept. As for twenty øne pilots themselves; regardless of all that’s happened to them over the years, no one can say that they’re not as true to themselves as if they were still just two kids playing small gigs in Ohio.