Review Summary: Sometimes, quiet is violent.
"We all have our masks that we wear". It's interesting how accurate this quote is. We all have masks, different faces that we show in different company. We put on a happy face when we're with family, an optimistic one at work, a confident one in front of the people we want to impress, and a loving face when we're with people that we love. Some of these are honestly genuine, some are fake. Some are more transparent than others. But no matter where we are, the only time when all of our masks fall away, leaving us stripped and vulnerable is when we are alone. Whether it be in the bathroom as we stare at an unfamiliar reflection in the mirror, or as we fight our demons in the dark, all snuggled up in bed, we are exposed when there is no one around. That's when all of our masks are gone.
With the aforementioned quote, Twenty One Pilots front man Tyler Joseph summarizes the concept of the band's major label debut album. With that one line, he reminds us that we all have something to hide. This record shows Tyler lowering a different mask for each song, showcasing everything he hides on display. While this is not rare in alternative music, the way he goes about it is very unconventional. This boy raps, croons, screams, wails, and does just about every vocal acrobatic in the book. Not only does he do these things very well, he never becomes grating to the ear. Despite the fact that his croon is a tiny bit nasally (okay maybe a lot), Tyler stays on key the whole of the record's run time. His synthesizer and piano work is impressive as well. Being the lead instrument in the band's music, the piano is always interesting, never irritating or overpowering, with "Car Radio" being the highlight of the album. Tyler's lyrics, simply put, are spectacular. He waxes philosophical in "Car Radio" about being alone and over thinking things. In the song "Migraine", he alternately croons and raps about surviving with anxiety and depression. With "Guns for hands" Tyler tackles mass depression. He displays his faith with the yelps in "Holding on to You". I could go on about each and every one of the songs, as they are all created splendidly.
While it's obvious that Tyler is the heart and soul of the band, the backbone and iron heavy base is Tyler's best friend, percussionist Joshua Dun. Now this guy is easily one of the best young drummers out there. His beats are continuously creative, upbeat, and just as passionately played as Tyler's parts are. Just watch any music video of the band performing. These guys move more during their set than any other band I've seen. Dun is an absolute beast, slamming out incredible beats during "Guns for Hands", "Holding on to you", and the back half of "Trees". In the less technical songs like "Car Radio" and "House of Gold" Josh keeps his drumming steady and forever solid. He knows perfectly when he needs to bring the heat, and when to show restraint.
Each of these songs are expertly crafted by two individuals who, with every fibre of their beings, believe and love the things they do; and that is crafting music. These two men realize their potential to affect lives, so they have brilliantly sculpted a personal, revealing record. Tyler lets his masks fall, showing he's human. His message is to anyone listening, to anyone that's struggling. He's trying to say that its okay to be vulnerable, and that its going to be okay in the end. Life is tough, so we keep our masks on. This album helps us see past those masks. In a recent interview, Tyler said "I don't want to be listened to, I want to be heard". Let all your masks fall, and hear. Something important is being said.