Twenty One Pilots perfect their genre-defying artistry with ‘Trench’

Twenty One Pilots have delivered in a way I did not expect with the release of Trench. Hearing the four singles before the album hit, I was left with some mixed feelings. “Levitate” was fantastic, “Jumpsuit” grew on me. The other two, “My Blood” and “Nico And The Niners,” I wasn’t too sure about.

However, after finishing a straight-through listen of the album, I’m taken aback.

There’s a level of improvement from Blurryface to Trench in terms of cohesiveness of sound. Every track blends well together. That’s not to say everything is within the same genre, but nothing feels choppy. The tracks are perfectly placed to better enhance the narrative being laid out in front of you. Listening to the tracks out of order is fine, but to get the full effect, it’s best to take shuffle off.

We start the album with “Jumpsuit,” which almost feels like the start of an action film, building to Tyler Joseph’s screams, laid atop sirens and Josh Dun’s hammering drum beats. This perfectly bleeds directly into “Levitate,” a short track showcasing Joseph’s breathless rapping skills, and leaves us with one of my favorite moments on the album, an ominous voice saying, “Welcome to Trench.” A simple, somewhat hidden, line that seamlessly brings you into this experience that’s unfolding around you.

And then it hits you. The greatest track on this album: “Morph.”

It’s indescribably addictive, blending grooves and slick rhythms with some seriously deep lyrics, not just about “morphing” into someone else, but also about death and the afterlife. It name drops Nicolas Bourbaki, a pseudonym for a group of mathematicians. One of those mathematicians was André Weil, who, among other things,  tried to prove God’s existence using numbers, and founded the null set ø, a character often used in the stylizing of the band’s name: twenty øne piløts.

(That’s just scratching the surface. If you want more theories about “Morph,” or the album in general, I suggest heading to Reddit.)

 

Onto the rest of the album.

“Neon Gravestones” hits you with a beautiful, yet simple piano line, where rapping turns into spoken word. “The Hype” is probably most like something you’d hear on Vessel. It’s uplifting and reminds me of the early 2000s for reasons I can’t pinpoint at this time. “Bandito” provides synths that are reminiscent of nearly anything The Killers have done.

And then we’ve got “Legend,” a song that, if you’re not paying attention, leaves you feeling happy. But upon actually listening to the lyrics, leaves you feeling sad. Joseph sings about his grandpa, who recently passed. It’s a lovely tribute to someone special, and ends hopeful: “I look forward to having a lunch with you again.” Melodically, the tune calls back to Blurryface’s “The Judge” a bit with the use of trumpets.

In classic TOP fashion, Trench ends on a haunting piano ballad with “Leave The City.” And, I could be wrong, but is that not the same chord ending as Vessel‘s “Truce”?

As it stands, Trench is a strong contender for album of the year (See also: Mike Shinoda’s Post Traumatic). As a whole, the album ebbs and flows like any good story. Even the less fantastic tracks, like “Chlorine,” still end on high notes.

In a world of nine- or 10-track albums, having 14 songs on Trench truly feels like a gift. Especially when each one of those songs comes polished with a shiny yellow bow on top.

Highlights: “Morph,” “Levitate”

Weak points: “Chlorine,” “Nico And The Niners”

Overall score: 9/10

Featured image taken from ”twenty one pilots: Jumpsuit [Official Video]” via twenty one pilots.

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