There is something brilliant about stumbling across an amazing band at three in the morning. It is even more amazing when you have never heard of the band and that VEVO actually suggested music that was good (More often than not VEVO’s suggestions are terrible, but that is a story for another day). The first time I heard Twenty One Pilots they blew me away. I didn’t even know that such a combination of genres existed. They sound like the illicit love child of a piano, synthesisers, drums, rap, pop-styled vocals laced with the intensity of a Thrice-esque post-hardcore band, and deeply moving poetry. To put it into fewer and simpler words: bipolar schizophrenic pop music.
I must admit that before hearing Vessel, I did not know that Twenty One Pilots had two other albums. I was under the assumption that it was their debut album, when in fact it was just their major-label debut on Fueled By Ramen.
The first song on Vessel is truly brilliant. “Ode to Sleep” sets you up for the entire album due to its multiple changes in genre. It characterises the almost bipolar nature of their music. It jumps from an aggressive rap verse to an upbeat synth pop sound and it constantly does this through the songs. The lyrics also set you up for what is most definitely an album characterised by verses that will absolutely blow your mind. For instance: “Some see a pen, I see a harpoon” or “I’ll stay awake, ‘cause the dark’s not taking any prisoners tonight.”
“Holding on to You” was the band’s first single off the album. It is rather ironic considering that the chorus of the song is only repeated twice. You’d expect the lead single of a band, with laced poppy undertones, to have the chorus repeated four or five times because that is usually the recipe to fame and fortune these days. Twenty One Pilots give that recipe the polite finger yet still stick to an upbeat synth pop beat and rhythm while throwing in a few rap verses and incredibly brilliant lyrics. “Remember the moment you know exactly where you’re going / ‘Cause the next moment, before you know it / time is slowing, and it’s frozen still.”
“Migraine” just proves that white guys can rap, and rap a lot better than certain black rappers. This entire song seems to be about a migraine, yet there is a much deeper message about the actual mental state of Tyler Joseph (the songwriter of the duo) and what is going on inside there. It “make[s] Pandora’s box look unrelated.”
‘House of Gold” is the perfect remedy to the violent nature of “Migraine”. It is an uplifting song about Joseph’s mum and how much he loves her, written and performed on a ukulele. Although, it also sets you up to have your mood depressed by “Car Radio”. This song is too real for any lover of music (or at least it was for me). It broaches the idea of what we would do without music. We would become privy to our innermost and darkest thoughts and that would terrify the staunchest of us. “Sometimes quiet is violent.”
“Semi-Automatic” confused me when I first listened to it. I heard the fun and upbeat beat and chord progression which made me start dancing – until I heard the lyrics and actually understood what I was listening to. The lyrics are deep and twisted to say the least, and it is another gold star next to the band’s name. “Screen” and “Truce” are the two slow songs on the album and are conveniently split up with numerous upbeat songs between them. I mention them in conjunction because they reflect a more uplifting and religious sentiment.
“The Run and Go” launches straight into the final upbeat stretch of the album. The song is bound to get stuck in your head due to its infectious beat. “Fake You Out” does as the title says and fakes happiness with its beat, when it is in fact a rather sad song lyrically. “I, I’ll never be, be what you see inside.” “Guns For Hands” is by far the best song on the album and also the first song that I heard. It is in essence an anti-suicide song that supports the idea that music can be used as a medium to prevent suicide. “I simply tell them they should shoot at this / simply suggest my chest and this confused music, it’s / obviously best for them to turn their guns to a fist.” “Trees” is the penultimate song on the album and
pace is relatively slow until you get into the last half of the song. It is just the perfect way to bring an album to its end. Finally you get the slow, ballad-like nature of “Truce” bringing up the rear.
All in all, Vessel is a major success. I have no negative things to say besides one: why aren’t there more songs? Twenty One Pilots are going to blow up soon and take the entire music scene by storm. Honestly one of my favourite albums from 2013.