Eclectic alt-rock duo Twenty One Pilots have gone fully out of the box with their ambitious new album Scaled and Icy.
Released Friday 21st May via Fueled by Ramen, their sixth offering sees them head in lighter directions than predecessors Vessel, Blurryface and Trench whilst still remaining fully cemented into their conceptual universe.
Instantly reminiscent of Electric Light Orchestra, album opener “Good Day” instantly sets a tone of cautious optimism. As frontman Tyler Joseph sings, “today’s a good day, never know when the next one’ll show”, you can’t help but be infected by this sunny outlook. Recent single “Choker” is more of a hark back to their usual dance-rock style. It features some insanely beautiful vocal breaks which really show off Joseph’s singing chops to their full potential.
“Shy Away” is upbeat and fun-packed to the brim; already three songs in there’s been a head-spinning amount of genre-bending and experimentation that Twenty One Pilots are certainly already known for, but not to this extent. Drummer Josh Dun’s challenging percussion patterns are eloquently showcased in “The Outside”, showing how far he’s truly come; it’s also the first song so far to feature the rap sections that are so often associated with the band usually.
“Saturday” is so far the most commercial radio-friendly sounding track, but nevertheless instantly catchy with an earworm chorus that’ll burrow into your brain for days. Things get subtly political on “Never Take It”, with lyrics like “they’re trying hard to weaponize, you and I, we’ll never take it,” ripping into your psyche. “Mulberry Street” is a quick shift to a slower pace but doesn’t feel jarring in the slightest, as similarly lulled tones follow in acoustic ballad, “Formidable”. It’s actually got quite a 60s’ peace and love vibe to it in certain sections, which is a feel I never really expected to get from a Twenty One Pilots track.
Intricate jazzy synth work comes into the forefront in “Bounce Man”, a pretty vibey track all round but not a standout for me. “No Chances” is haunting, with its choral vocal effects, which wrap around Tyler Joseph’s brilliantly executed rap sections seamlessly.
Closing statement “Redecorate” is the most telling song of the meaning of the entire Scaled and Icy experience; discussing themes of what is next to come and where to go from here (“should I keep it on display or redecorate?”); it’s the perfect metaphor for a band who are branching out to new territory, just hoping the risks pay off.
Scaled and Icy is a perfect continuation of the evolution of Twenty One Pilots; eternally evolving, enigmatic, bleak yet in this case with a dash of brightness, they’re the band that is not afraid to try anything once and actively shy away from living inside the box, and we need more of it in the music scene today.