Twenty One Pilots – Vessel
Record Label: Fueled By Ramen Records
Release Date: January 8th, 2013
To start off this review, I think I’ll ask a hypothetical question. Have you ever listened to a band, liked them, and then kind of forgot about them? That’s how I was with Ohio indie duo Twenty One Pilots. In late 2011, a friend of mine posted a music video by them on her Facebook wall and I checked it out. I was really intrigued, and I noticed that the band had some songs for free on the website, so I downloaded it and listened to it for a few weeks. Somehow, though, I forgot about them, and I kept reading bits and pieces of them, especially when I read they got signed to label Fueled By Ramen that has bands like Paramore and Fun signed. They also announced their debut record would be released in 2013. Well, I was browsing the website Absolutepunk.net and noticed ads for their album on the day it was released, ironically. I didn’t even know that it came out, and I was insanely stoked about it, especially after looking at the tracklist. The song that I first heard by them, which was “House of Gold,” is on their label debut Vessel. That’s a wonderful track and one of my favorites on the record, but I listened to the second single “Guns for Hands” (second to track “Holding Onto You), and I was rather surprised at what I heard, to be honest. I thought this band was a very straightforward indie-pop band with a great vocalist and lyrics to match. Well, about halfway into the song, a very reggae-like beat comes up out of absolutely nowhere and, suddenly, singer Tyler Joseph erupts into a very interesting rap verse. I’ll get to my feelings on this track later, because it’s on the record, but I mention this because it took me completely by surprise. It’s safe to say that this band is “different,” and mainly because they combine indie-pop with hip-hop. That’s the best way I can put it. It’s a little off-putting, because there are a few songs on this record, such as “House of Gold” that do not have a hip-hop sound to them, or anything like that, so if you listen to that song first, you’re going to be completely surprised as well. But despite that, I do enjoy the myriad of genres being thrown into this record and their overall sound, because I’ve never really heard anything like it before. That’s a great sign, considering that this is the first record of 2013 that I’ve purchased and listened to. It makes me very excited for the rest of the year.
The record begins with “Ode to Sleep,” and it starts off with a very interesting beat. This is actually the longest song on the record at five minutes, but it doesn’t feel that way. The beat is really cool, though, and really gets me pumped for this record. Suddenly about forty seconds in, vocalist Tyler Joseph comes in with a rap verse, and it’s quite interesting, really. But then the tempo changes and instead of sounding like an indie hip-hop song, drummer Josh Dun changes the tempo and it sounds like a different song and a different band. That’s the most interesting thing about this band (and this album in general), they can change sounds really quick, but it either flows or sounds quite awkward. In the case of “Ode to Sleep,” it sounds pretty cool here. The chorus has a very indie sound to it, while the verses are rapped. This leads me to something else that I enjoy about this record, too – their sound is really “fun,” but lyrically, the songs are a bit more than that. They’re not about partying, drugs, sex, or all that kind of stuff that “fun” music normally has surrounding, but these lyrics are quite clever sometimes. The lyrics are either really interesting or rather bland. Next track is first single “Holding Onto to You” and this song kind of follows the same “formula,” really; the rapped verses with the indie-pop chorus. If you’re wondering if this formula gets boring after awhile, it does, but thankfully, the band does it fresh. This song is really cool, because the bridge has a piano riff while Joseph sings then suddenly just busts into a rap verse out of nowhere. The lyrics in this verse are rather bland, but compared to popular music, these are golden. Third track “Migraine” is another very interesting track, because it starts off with a really odd vocal effect that almost brings fellow Fueled By Ramen Fun to mind, and that’s a good comparison. This song is really interesting, nonetheless, though. It’s got a very nice “groove” to as most of the record really does. This song also has some of my favorite lyrics, too. And a very catchy chorus, as well.
Fourth track “House of Gold” is a track I mentioned a few times in the beginning, and this is where things get different. This track is a very straightforward indie-pop track with very cutesy lyrics. If you listened to this song first, you’d probably have a different idea of the band than if you listened to the whole record, so you’d know what to expect. It’s also quite short at a little under three minutes, but it’s nice, catchy and to the point. It’s a nice little break from the hip-hop/indie mashup that they’ve thrown at the listener so far. Fifth track “Car Radio” immediately goes back to Joseph rapping but this is another interesting track, too. The beat is very simplistic for this track, and that’s why it works so well. The next track “Semi-Automatic” has a very new-wave kind of beat and I love the chorus of this song. This is a great indie-pop track, and this one of those songs where the transition between the indie and hip-hop sounds is actually very natural and flowing. Next track “Screen” is another “standout” track because this has a very reggae sound to it. The word I would use to describe this track is “smooth,” to say the least. Eighth track “The Run and Go” is a bit different, because this has a more indie sound to it, actually. This is one of the few songs that doesn’t feature a lot of hip-hop influence, but rather a very catchy indie-pop one. In fact, this song also has some whistling in it, which is really cool, because I’ve never heard that, really.
The first half of the album has a lot of that, but the second half really doesn’t. It has much more of an indie-pop sound, like ninth track “Fake You Out,” which is a very catchy song. It features a bit of hip-hop in the bridge, which works quite well, actually. The opposite goes for tenth track and single, “Guns for Hands,” which I mentioned earlier as well. This song has a predominantly indie-pop/rock sound but the middle of the song, it suddenly changes tempo to have a reggae beat and a rap verse suddenly is given to the listener and when I first heard it, I was rather confused. This is where the transition is quite awkward, because it’s rather out of place. It’s enjoyable, but a bit surprising and off-putting. Regardless, though, this is a song that I can see getting huge on the Billboard charts. It’s got that very catchy chorus and a lot of mainstream appeal. The last two tracks actually don’t have any hip-hop influence at all, really. Eleventh track “Trees” is a very somber track, which is rather surprising, because not too many of these tracks really exist on here. A lot of the songs on this record are very energetic, and this one is somber for the most part, despite a rather oddly placed “dance” beat in the middle of the song. Last track “Truce” is a two and a half minute piano-driven ballad, I suppose. It’s really quiet and very different from the opening track “Ode to Sleep.” It ends the album on a very quiet note, which I like a lot.
This album came out of left-field for me, because I totally forgot about this band and this record until I saw an ad for it online. I definitely was excited to pick up a copy, and I don’t regret it. The main thing I enjoy about this record is how much variety there is on here. Sadly, though, I’m sure there will be some people who write this band off because of the rapping, but if you actually listen to what Tyler Joseph is saying, you’ll find that it’s not typical to that of mainstream hip-hop. I do like the indie-pop aspect as well though; I enjoy both of those genres, and they mash them in a very nice way without seeming too confusing or too strange, really. It’s a very nice balance. And this band is also on Fueled By Ramen records as I mentioned earlier in the review, too. With that being said, I have a huge feeling that they could be huge in the next year or so. I can certainly see a track like “Guns for Hands” getting a lot of radio play, and if it doesn’t, I’ll be darned, I guess. I also really like Tyler Joseph’s voice, too. I hardly touched on that earlier, but he has a very unique voice, because he can go from rapping to singing wonderfully very quick, and I really his versatility. Regardless, this band does have that potential to be very well known and recognized.
This album is amazing, I'd never heard of them and wasn't expecting anything special when I first listened to it. It blew me away and I immediately purchased it. It combines so many styles and genres, he raps, sings and even screams. One of the most versatile albums I've ever seen.