Up until the spring of 2020 I wasn’t much of a Twenty One Pilots fan. I liked Tear In My Heart, I occasionally listened to Stressed Out and Chlorine was pretty good. Then something clicked and I became obsessed with the work of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun who just took home the Alternative Rock Artist of the Year award at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards. I took a deep dive into their previous works which I originally dismissed.
After about 14 months of fandom and listening to damn near everything they ever put out, their 2013 album Vessel features my favorite song of theirs (Car Radio), their 2018 album Trench is my favorite album of theirs start to finish, and Blurryface holds the coveted Best Song Featuring a Ukulele award (The Judge). Needless to say I was excited to welcome a new era of Twenty One Pilots for the first time as a fan when they announced their new album Scaled and Icy earlier this year.
Shy Away, the album’s lead single released back in April, was very enjoyable and set the tone for yet another very different sounding album from this two piece band. While many other bands like Chevelle and Nickelback tend to follow a formula and stick to sounds they know, Twenty One Pilots has never put the same album out twice and anyone expecting another Trench or Blurryface was going to be disappointed.
Hence, the second single Choker was an even bigger deviation from what they’ve done in the past. The die-hards loved it, the casuals didn’t know what to think, and the rest probably didn’t listen to it. That would pretty much describe Scaled and Icy when it was released a few weeks later.
It starts with Good Day sets the theme for most of the album; sonically is upbeat and positive while lyrically it retains some of the infamous darkness this band is good for. The two aforementioned singles follow Good Day before back-to-back bangers take hold and could easily be heard on a dance floor this summer.
I picture listening to The Outside on a Friday night while cruising around town heading to a maskless bar with something called live music that has been sorely missed the past year. Saturday is the perfect song to jam to on, you guessed it, a Saturday night. Who knew that the new roaring 20s would be jumpstarted by a couple of awesome dance jams from Twenty One Pilots?
The next four songs, Never Take It, Mulberry Street, Formidable and Bounce Man are all about as experimental as it gets. Tyler Joseph is messing around with different sounds and influences here and making songs that different people will like or dislike for different reasons. Personally, I like Never Take It and Formidable, while I’m lukewarm on Mulberry Street and Bounce Man.
Maybe I’ll like the latter pair eventually, but this album doesn’t seem to be everything for everyone. Rather, it seems like a little something for everyone, with each listener attaching themselves to different songs of the album. I have already seen tweets from people talking about how Mulberry Street is their favorite song on the album.
Perhaps that’s the brilliance of Scaled and Icy, every listener is going to take away something completely different from these 11 eclectic songs. You don’t have to like all 11 and that’s OK. You may only like a few while someone else’s few that they like may be three different songs.
Which brings me to the three songs that I personally love on this album. While I listened to this album the night it was released, I was a little worried about my lack of emotional connection to any of the songs after Shy Away. Those worries were squashed when No Chances began and any doubts I had about Scaled and Icy faded away with my personal favorite track, Redecorate.
The album’s shift in sound from the first nine songs to the final two is jarring. They have various themes from Vessel, Blurryface and Trench, with kickass lyrics, awesome beats and that signature Twenty One Pilots sound that once you connect with it, you can’t escape it. The rapping, Joseph’s delivery and the themes of fighting and death close out this album perfectly.
Normally we would expect an entire album that would sound like the final two songs, however I’m not sure if this was the proper time for a balls-to-the-wall emotional rollercoaster album that Twenty One Pilots has put out five times before. Their regular deep topics of depression, themes of depression, anxiety, and death were perhaps a little too dark to explore for an entire album in these already very dark times.
Instead, we got some upbeat songs that will get heads nodding up and down on a Saturday night, while also making us contemplate what we’ll leave behind for our loved ones when we die. They’re young and there is still plenty of time for another front-to-back heavy album from Tyler and Josh, they clearly have a lot left in the tank.
For now, let’s enjoy the end of the quarantine, the masks and the isolation and dance together again to some kick ass music from the best music duo on the planet.