Twenty One Pilots – Twenty One Pilots

It was really tough to pick a TOP album to review, because I’m super into Vessel, especially the Kierkegaardian lyrics of “Car Radio” and the Mixolydian mode mixture of “Migraine”, and blurryface, especially the dissonant beat and fast rap of “Heavydirtysoul” and the fun-to-play classic rock ditty, “Tear in My Heart”. I just love the weird minimalist innovation of TOP’s debut album; you’ll find me selecting a lot of bands’ debut albums for this list over their other, more critically-acclaimed work, but you’ll notice that TOP stopped using waltz time entirely on Vessel. What I mean to say is that this is, in my opinion, their most technically impressive album. The album opens with a small piano waltz that could have been written a couple centuries ago, and that kind of neoclassical work abounds on this album, but I would never call it orchestral; it’s just a set of fun little ditties that accompany Tyler Joseph’s existential angst and some truly incredible percussion arrangements. “Addict With a Pen” is my favorite TOP song, and one of my favorite songs ever written, with a wonderful intro riff reminiscent of MCR’s “Disenchanted”, really cool percussive pops, lyrics that make you feel something, and a perfect stealthy buildup over the course of the song. I’m also surprised we don’t talk more about “Air Catcher”, a city theatre bop that’s the loudest they get on this album. The production on this album is an achievement, and it truly elevates songs that might have been written for the ukulele to transcendent levels; you’ve got the choral/synth arrangements of “March to the Sea”, the percussion that just makes tracks like “Isle of Flightless Birds”, and the faux strings that build the harmony on “Before You Start Your Day”. The way the piano waltz I mentioned that opens the album builds into a set of hard synth scales perfectly encapsulates what’s so great about this album; it’s a mix of different styles, all of which clearly fit a band’s first self-produced record, which fits together into a great work of art.

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