Review Summary: A solid release, for a young group where solid is underachieving.
The change from releasing works independently to releasing works with major label support is a lot different for a group. More outside voices are heard, individuality from the group falls, and production is nice and crisp. With that we have Twenty One Pilots. A new group from the Columbus area featuring Tyler Joseph on vocals and piano, and Josh Dun on drums. These two have seamlessly combined indie electronic with raspy rapping and heavy bass. I've always been appealed by the cocktail of sounds that Twenty One Pilots brings. Tyler's signing voice is anything but original but there's something that's always charming about the empowerment and emotion in his raps he does in the duo's songs. Not only is it captivating, but it's original. After the group became a household name in the Ohio area major alternative label Fueled By Ramen signed the young group. The group only took about 1 year to compile their first record "Vessel." Which is in many ways the bands first chance to reach a wider audience. On this record the band attempts to expand the sound with more electronic use, and balladry. At times their true potential and talent really shines through. But sometimes you also see a drop in emotion that made them so charming.
The record opens up with a strength of a song aptly named "Ode To Sleep." The song combines three moods of a person on narcoleptic substances. The song opens with a feeling of anger. Tyler raps "I go up, up, up, up, up to the ceiling. Than I feel my soul starts leaving, like an old man's hair receding." You sense the anger in his tone. Than you hit the pre-chorus of the jam which is about hallucinating. "No I'm not scared of the morning, I don't hear those voices calling, I must've kicked them out. I swear I heard demons yelling, those crazy words they were standing." The song shifts into a style similar to that of Neon Trees with the third phase, and the chorus beginning. The song is a total masterpiece. Through and through. In many other ways "Holding On To You" is just as good. This song was actually remastered, and was featured on the groups last record Regional At Best. "Holding on to You" is about someone you just can't simply get out of your head. It's additionally one the more catchiest tracks and the track where you see emotion dripping out of the lyrics "It ain't the speakers that bump, It's our hearts that make the beat." Add on a riff from an classic song "lean with it rock with it, when we gonna stop with it"" and you have an early contender for indie song of the year with pure vocals, empowering lyrics, and epic sonic experience. Two tracks through you begin to see the potential that the band has, and how touching they can be.
With most label debuts, groups fall into the filler trap. This record is unfortunately no exception. "House Of Gold" is very cliche. It is is also pretty boring and really lacking the emotion from the first two tracks. "Screen" is probably the worst track on the album with an oddly placed children's chorus, that sounds nearly similar to Tyler's voice. I usually love a children's chorus but this was not the group that should be using one, unless Tyler hits puberty a second time. "Fake You Out" employs a recycled Super Nintendo-esque rhythm that is very annoying and very frequently used by other bands similar to theirs.
One thing that stays consistent throughout the album is the bands ability to surprise. "Car Radio" includes a lot of talking for the vocals other than singing. This is sometimes boring. However than you hit a masterful synthesizer line. It's an unusual fit but it makes the song an overall good listen. "Guns For Hands" is another remastered track from Regional At Best. It's a solid indie pop song, with a good message. But than the band has another surprise in store, the beat slows down and just takes you into a trance dance section. Which includes another strong rap. The song is an overall success and is very catchy. A piano ballad in "Truce" closes out the album. It's the shortest song on the album and is also a lot different than the other tracks on the release. Tyler's vocal delivery is his strongest of his career on this track though.
All in all this is a solid major label debut for the group. An album full of slick production. The band knows how to make songs musically astonishing, write some pretty deep lyrics, and provide with a very entertaining listen. However on this record we see a detraction of emotion that was oozing from their previous releases. Restore the emotion, and remove the filler and than the band has potential to be huge. Until then, we wonder what's going to happen next.