You Ought To Know: Twenty-One Pilots

Vessel still has potential to grow popularity into 2014

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Album: Vessel

Released: January 8, 2013

Label: Fueled By Raman

By: Stephanie Griffin

It seems every time I have a new favorite artist, nobody knows who it is. I can say this about Twenty-One Pilots.  The musical duo from Ohio is Tyler Joseph on vocals and piano and Josh Dun on drums. They are not new to the music scene, but they can thank the Fueled by Ramen label for signing them to help get their big break. Their first album, Regional At Best (2011) introduced indie fans to the new artists, who grew popular while headlining shows and tours. But, Vessel, released January 8 of this year, is starting to give Twenty-One Pilots the exposure they deserve.

We have all seen the combination of rap and rock music before. Bands like Linkin Park, Hollywood Undead and Gym Class Heroes have successfully combined these types of genres to make their music unique. Twenty-One Pilots falls in a similar genre that gives you more of a reason to check them out. Not all the songs on Vessel have rap verses, but their sound is just like nothing I have heard before. Though they are easily comparable to other indie rock bands like Atlas Genius, The Cab, Fun., and The Neighborhood, Twenty-One Pilots has no boundaries within their music, to the point where listening to the instrumentals as well as the lyrics can be pretty moving.

Vessel begins with “Ode to Sleep” that starts with an amazing electronic beat to kick off the album. The song hits you by surprise as it starts with a hardcore rap. Lyrics like, “I wake up fine and dandy but then by the time I find it handy, to rip my heart apart and start planning my crash landing.” But then immediately going into the hook before the chorus, the pace and instrumental is changed to sound happier. This is something you will notice throughout the entire album because they do this “mood change” a lot in their songs. This song, as many others on the album, has different types of phases that can indicate different types of moods.  This style works for what Twenty-One Pilots is trying to play on Vessel.

The next track is, “Hold On To You,” the first single off the album that was released about a year ago. The song seems to express the emotions of Joseph and Dun as music artists. As the lyrics say, “Lyrics that mean nothing, we were gifted with thought. Is it time to move our feet to an introspective beat? It ain’t the speakers that bump hearts, it’s our hearts that make the beat.” Similar to how other artists like Lady Gaga and Jay Z have told in their songs, sometimes there is a price to being so famous and having such a high reputation to manage in the music industry. Whether you are someone who just listens to music for the lyrics or just for the music itself, you will be pleased with these songs.

One of my favorite tracks off the album is “House of Gold.” The song starts with a ukulele, totally unexpected! Then, Joseph starts singing about his mother. The lyrics go, “She asked me, “Son, when I grow old, will you buy me a house of gold? And when your father turns to stone, will you take care of me?” The song is a sweet dedication to his family, especially his mother. To say this album tells stories from all different types of moods in an understatement. It is something you just have to listen to not as a complete work, but as each song separately.

The album continues to stay very low key with “Car Radio,” another one of my favorite tracks. The song starts very slow, where all you hear is three notes on a keyboard alongside a simple drumbeat. The lyrics again bring a range of emotions to the song. The lyrics go, “I have these thoughts so often I ought to replace that slot with what I once bought ‘cause somebody stole my car radio and now I just sit in silence.” As the song continues, it seems similar to “Holding On To You” with this theme about fame in the music industry almost being too powerful on them as artists. Even though the lyrics are expressive, I enjoy listening to the instrumental of the song more than the lyrics (and for me, it is usually the other way around).

Vessel starts to pick up again with “Screen.” This song begins with some light piano and Joseph singing (where I would much rather prefer him rapping). But this is another song that can sound very happy and upbeat, but have sad lyrics. As Joseph raps in the middle of the song, he says, “While you’re doing fine, there’s some people and I who have a really tough time getting through this life, so excuse us while we sing to the sky.” The song is pretty much in your face, and you really can feel the emotions of anger and frustration he has. I wouldn’t be so mad though guys; at least Joseph sounds like a natural rapper (anyone else hear Miley Cyrus on Bangerz… because it’s that bad and nowhere close to this).

Throughout Vessel, we go through the rollercoaster of emotions in Joseph’s lyrics. Most of the songs can be explained in phases. This music technique is also what makes Twenty-One Pilots distinctive from other arts. One of Vessel’s last tracks is “Guns for Hands.” Again, the song starts very upbeat with a catchy piano melody. Then the song slows down in time for Joseph’s rap. He says, “Let’s take this a second at a time, let’s take this one song, this one rhyme, together, let’s breathe, together, to the beat, but there’s hope out the window, so that’s where we’ll go, let’s go outside and all join hands, but until then you’ll never understand.”

As a musician myself, I see the power of putting emotion into songwriting. I find Twenty-One Pilots is not afraid to speak their mind and that’s what makes them so real. Listen to the album not as a full work but for each song individually. You can really listen to this album with any mood, but if you are ever feeling sad or angry, it is a great pick-me-up.

Stephanie Griffin

About Stephanie Griffin

Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie and I am a senior Media Studies major graduating this December! I love to sing, write music, go to concerts, and also have my downtime to relax! You'll most likely see me in the station everyday, so don't be a stranger!

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