Twenty One Pilots – Scaled and Icy
Scaled and Icy is a lot more welcoming than it sounds. American duo Twenty One Pilots, including drummer Josh Dun and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph, return with a mixed bag of bright, approachable pop that doesn’t sit still long enough to gauge where they’ve landed since their highly conceptual album of 2018, Trench. This new release being written, recorded, and produced remotely is potentially a factor in the whimsical nature of some tracks. Subject matter loosely revolves around a heightened anxiety in the current state of the world, but it’s ironically expressed with a sunny sweetness, perhaps too mild for the notorious die-hard fans to dig their teeth into, considering the hard-hitting punch that established the band’s popularity.
Good Day is a perky opener, yet the slightly off-kilter tone suggests that Joseph is trying to convince himself that it’s a good day, as awkward onlookers think otherwise. Despite this, all the tools for optimum positivity are engaged, especially jaunty piano and carefree vocal melodies. Mulberry Street finds a less artificial, breezy swing, but the sugariness becomes a little over-saturated in later tracks. If Good Day was the morning tune, Bounce Man is the afternoon – and it does exactly that: bounces tirelessly. Once the first verse and chorus has passed, there is little left to be desired. Saturday follows a similar trajectory, and, though any uplift these days is appreciated, lyrics like “paint the town” and “these are my dancing shows” are a disappointing for a duo capable of crafty songwriting. This track roots from disorientation in lockdown – something that wouldn’t initially strike the listener in the sunny summer mood it pushes.
Choker is a skittery single with a hesitantly anthemic chorus, followed by a rapid-fire rap bridge. There are sparks of vulnerability with “It seems all I’m worth is what I’m able to withstand”, but in terms of sound, the track is disconnected and seems unsure of where it wants to throw its punch. No Chances is most redolent of Blurry Face, with its industrial stomp and slightly more sinister tones, but the most effective song is the closer, especially in what it depicts. Redecorate narrates a person on the cusp of death, wishing to organise their mundane possessions before they go, so as not to burden loved ones with loose ends. It’s a unique message with simple instrumentation that comes as a surprise, following its jolly antecedents.
Scaled and Icy is entirely digestible and sounds as if Twenty One Pilots are remaining open-minded and receptive. Moments of flair dispersed throughout tempt listeners with their versatility but, in between, they dress angsty trails of thought with pleasant pastels, and it doesn’t eviscerate with impact like their previous works. Despite this, there are a fair few catchy tunes that newcomers might find an easy to step into the band’s work, and the duo certainly seem to be on a high.
Scaled and Icy is released on 21st May 2021. For further information or to order the album visit Twenty One Pilots’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Good Day here: