Music Review: Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Vessel’

21p sliverFueled by Ramen are becoming a very impressive force in the world of pop-alternative music. From last year’s success of fun., plus their other diverse acts including Paramore, Gym Class Heroes and Panic! at the Disco makes them a rather large tour de force. Now it’s time for their newest act, Twenty One Pilots, to shine. However, their debut with FBR, entitled Vessel, is too much of a mixed bag to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Let’s start with the good: The first single “Holding On To You” is a decent bit of pop music, with a very catchy hook and a solid music video accompaniment. “House of Gold” incorperates the uke in a rather enjoyable way, a nice song to throw in a mixtape to someone. The track immediately following that, “Car Radio” is lyrically the best moment on Vessel, which tells of the lead singer feeling really messed up and alone now that someone stole his car radio. His flow reminds me of someone doing a very hip-hop inspired set of spoken word poetry, which escalates to some deafening yells. I didn’t think 21P would get serious at all on this album, but this song really proves me wrong (regardless of the heavy synths toward the end). It’s a song like that which shows the duo have a lot of potential moving forward.

I say “moving forward” because whatever potential they have is wasted with incredibly faulty production and mixing. Take the two tracks I mentioned before, “House of Gold” and “Car Radio.” Going from a light pop sound to the darkest song on the album doesn’t give it the contrast it might be going for, but shows a true lack of unity. Even the very first song, “Ode To Sleep” is a mess from start to finish. You could probably disect that song into two seperate tracks, one rap oriented and pop oriented – given that BOTH have different production choices attached to it. This album’s inconsistent sounds (dance floor pop towards the end, normal pop in the middle, and lots of hip-hop in the beginning) makes this a hard listen.

What makes it an even harder listen is vocalist Tyler Joseph. His rapping is sub-par at best, and his singing ability isn’t going to warrant any sort of accolades. What the real kicker is here is his inflection. Just like Karmin last year, Joseph’s singing far surpasses his ability to rap, and how he raps is rather aggravating. What Karmin was to Nicki Minaj, Joseph is to a white guy trying his hardest to rap at karaoke. Take rapping away, and you’d find Joseph at I believe to be his most confident – however his screaming (ESPECIALLY towards the end of “The Run And Go) is something left to be desired.

This is not the way I want to start my new year. Vessel is an inconsistent mess that showed it’s not afraid to experiment. However, that experiment went horribly wrong somewhere down the line. I don’t doubt that Twenty One Pilots will be back – Fueled By Ramen usually know how to pick them. But hopefully in the time it takes to put out a new album, the duo can grow into themselves and find some genre of music to grab a hold of.

Final Grade: C-
Go Download: “Car Radio”

43 thoughts on “Music Review: Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Vessel’

  1. Didn’t even mention Trees, Guns for Hands, or Migraine. Those were some of the serious highlights. Not to mention this album was produced by Greg Wells, who produced with Katy Perry and Adele, so I don’t think it suffers from “faulty production”. Theres a reason this band was able to sell out a 1,400 person venue indepent of any record label, and its that their music may actually be pretty good.

  2. The joy of TOP is hearing them brazenly experimenting with lyrics, sound, and style. Thematically, switching up the sounds on Ode To Sleep matches the lyrics perfectly. His awkward rapping is addressed in the song Screen. Tyler knows it’s not perfect. But his personality shines through his singing and rapping. Unfortunately, all you wanted was safe, simple pop songs that fit the little boxes you want to put them in. Don’t knock it for being different.

    1. All I hear is chaotic random screaming to a disco beat. They are takentless, but young people have so much junk shoved in their ears, they cannot tell good from bad.

      1. Lol, talentless? If you actually looked beyond the surface, you’d see how talented of a song writer and lyric writer Tyler is. Ode to Sleep isn’t just “two tracks put together”, it’s a song offering key changes and a move into swing, something more complicated then “putting to tracks together.” Josh is an extremely talented, creative drummer full of passion. I myself am a drummer, and I totally look up to the talent of that man. Before you go saying that they’re talentless, learn a thing or two about music and go write a song that can even compare to Tyler’s music.

  3. They were able sell out 1,400 people venues herein Cbus because they are largely Christian oriented and somehow cultivated a following of youth group teens from the region to hear their positive message ‘schizoid pop’. They need to pick a genre, and drop the rap angle. You can’t take successful aspects of every genre and throw it into a clusterfuck of a record. Decent review.

    1. I’m not Christian, never ever will be. But this group is amazing, they aren’t even considered a Christian band. The rap is actually good, he has skills. He was able to intertwine different genres of music together and it sounds fabulous. If it weren’t for the way he creates his music, I would never listen to his music cause of the lyrics. I’m a proud believer of nothing except my own living self.

  4. There is no good way to mix a drum set, a piano and rapping into a consistent album, so shut your ween if you think there is. twenty | one | pilots does something that no one else has had the literal balls to do, and they kick serious ass doing it. If all you want is a silky smooth pop song, “written” by some crazy bitch who put words from a break up into an autotune machine, then listen to that, and leave good, genuine music to the rest of us. TOP is weird, yes, I’ll be the first to admit it, if you can’t take two guys pouring their hearts and souls and making tangible relationships first, a grand live show second, and music third then don’t listen to them!

    1. Funny you say shut your ween. I was doing a search for twentyone pilots and ween and was led to this site. Wanted to see if anybody else noticed the similarity because his voice sounds identical to Ween! (from the 80’s, some of y’all were not even born – poor things…) but yeah.

      So while I will agree with you (and other positive comments) about their talent… if you have been around long enough, you’ve heard it (or something like it) before. But I still love their music. :-)

  5. >>“Ode To Sleep” is a mess from start to finish. You could probably disect [sic] that song into two seperate [sic] tracks, one rap-oriented and [one] pop-oriented…

    What they do is different. There is something new under the sun.

  6. Have you seen them live? Do that and then write a review please. I honestly believe your mind will changed. It happened to me a year and a half ago. If it doesn’t then I understand, this just isn’t your cup of tea. They’ve developed almost like a cult following that will be with them every step of the way, they’re doing something right.

  7. To summarize the review: “I dislike unique music. I hate variation. Versatile musicians annoy me. I was looking for 12 of the same exact song. I’ll just sit back and suck on the culture I deserve while I pray that the guys who sold out headliner shows BEFORE they got signed sacrifice all sense of originality on the altar of my narrow tastes. Well, now that I’ve written the only negative review for this album, I’m off to a Nickleback concert!”

  8. Wow Alan… you sure stirred up a lot of feelings with this review didn’t you? But I have to agree with Danny. You should definitely check them out live, because their live performances are far more powerful than their album. I saw them open for Fun. in December (that was the first time I ever heard of them) and am going to see them perform again in February they put on such a great show. Best of all tickets are only 10 dollars!

  9. Funny thing is, a lot people are saying that they can’t mix all of these genres, but they can do what ever the heck they want. I am sure they could care less about reviews. It’s sad that music and art can be so publicly torn to pieces just because some person whom bought a domain name wants to feel heard.

    If you want to know what an album sounds like, then listen to it. This will be the very last review i read. You shouldn’t judge someones artistic expression, especially when it is not made for you to judge.

  10. Guess this is one of those albums that people love or hate. For me, I hear an innovative blend of many different genres that is entirely appropriate for our time. This decade has so far been all about genre-bending and experimentation. And what’s more, the singer here is phenomenal when he’s singing or rapping. All around good stuff. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that more people are going to see the brilliance of this album than are going to overlook the many elements that make it a unique piece.

  11. You have no taste of your own. All I see you writing about this album is what you’ve been taught to write ; to explain how innovative the album is and then bash on the artist for being creative and not being a drone.
    This review makes me sick, I’ve never felt so disgusted in a person before.

  12. “I say “moving forward” because whatever potential they have is wasted with incredibly faulty production and mixing.” Since when the fuck is music about how it’s portrayed and how well it’s put together? Music is about expression. “What makes it an even harder listen is vocalist Tyler Joseph. His rapping is sub-par at best, and his singing ability isn’t going to warrant any sort of accolades. What the real kicker is here is his inflection. Just like Karmin last year, Joseph’s singing far surpasses his ability to rap, and how he raps is rather aggravating.” Well one of the things I love about Tyler is his unique rapping style. He’s better than nicki and lil wayne. He raps about things that actually matter and things that people can actually relate to. When was the last time you heard an artist pour themselves into their music? Twenty One Pilots is an amazing and gifted duo. Music is about expression and if you don’t realize how much meaning their music has, you need to stop writing about music.

  13. Yeah their sound is definitely for young kids. Personally I feel like I would like them more if they just gave up the rap. But I guess that’s what the college kids are into these days. If I wanted to listen to rap I would listen to cudi or asher Roth.

    And I have no clue with how these people commenting saying they sing about something you can relate to. I couldn’t relate to a single thing they sing about except for getting a migraine listening to them. But then again I’m not schitzo or an emo so I can’t really relate to them

  14. You certainly don’t have to be “schizo or emo” to relate to them – thousands of perfectly happy, healthy people are inspired by them. They pour everything they have into their music and performances. And, they have cleverly spun many of their lyrics to be taken through a Christian viewpoint or a non-religious one, something artists rarely do. It depends whoever is listening to them: a devout Christian may take a “you” in a song as God, while an atheist, for example, may take “you” as another person, a friend.

    “March to the Sea” is easily relatable if you listen closely (you don’t even have to strain your mind).

  15. You obviously don’t know good music and you obviously haven’t gone to one of their shows. The crowd LOVES them and their mixing of rap, pop, and rock is what makes them so unique. Their lyrics are meaningful and deep unlike the garbage that’s played on the radio. Don’t compare twenty one pilots to Karmin!! What the fuck?! Just because they both rap and sing in their songs doesn’t make the music the same. I’m sick of hearing music that all sounds exactly the same which is why I listen to TOP. They’re different and damn talented. If you don’t like it, DON’T LISTEN!!!!

  16. The vast difference between twenty|one|pilots and other artists (Karmin? Really?) is that they create REAL music. Anyone can piece together garbage lyrics and melodies adorned with only synths and auto-tune, but these guys write to spread the message of encountering pain and surviving our own hells through different outlets, all wrapped up in a versatile musical approach (or should I say, the “inconsistent mess” of drums, piano, synths and vocals). Anyone can write garbage lyrics, but TOP has the masterful ability to influence and change the lives of its listeners, this ability being at fault for the cult following everywhere they go.

    Might I add that since seeing them live my initial appreciation has increased so dramatically, not only because the throw a kickass show, but because they are such down-to-earth, honest musicians with inspiring material.

    Please excuse the band that chooses to use creativity to make a difference, that chooses to break the barriers of what the music industry claims artists should sound like. God forbid that they fail to impress “experts” such as yourself.

  17. You must not know what this band is about. Their music is better than any of the mainstream stuff on the radio, by far. Their lyrics are thought provoking and real, not about sex and drugs. And what’s wrong with variety on the album?? I like that they don’t have a set style, but are versatile. I knew you weren’t a fan when you called them “21P.” Anyone who is a real fan knows that it is always spelled out.

  18. What credentials do you even have to fucking speak? It appears that the simple minded, pretentious FUCK by the name of “Allan” simply can’t understand a variety of time meters and chord change ups. Please do us a favor and go back to your 4/4, key of C pop reproductions. You’re entitled to whatever opinions you want, but music shouldn’t revolve around the same redundant bullshit written by people other than the artist themselves that you most likely glorify.

  19. Silly Michael, you meant to say Alan IS NOT entitled to whatever opinions he wants, right? Either that or you just don’t know what contradictions are. Or I guess Alan can have an opinion, but just not share it? Is that what you meant? Then again, you did spell his name wrong so you could just be rambling about something that has nothing to do with this writeup. In that case carry on, and I suggest we talk about the appropriate ratio of hard candy to tootsie roll in a tootsie roll pop next.

  20. Honestly such a great album. If you don’t like it, chances are you probably haven’t listened to the lyrics yet. The meanings in each song, usually cleverly hidden in metaphors, speak so loudly; the lyrics actually have content/purpose/thoughtfulness. Which is unfortunately rare in a lot of music. And despite what some may say about the inconsistent beats, if you know anything about Tyler Joseph, he intended to do that. He loves many genres of music and doesn’t want to feel limited to just one. He doesn’t want his listeners to be able to guess what’s happening next, he says that doesn’t make sense to him. Tyler and Josh are brilliant and will get plenty of criticism from close-minded-people for standing out. I love this album, everything it stands for, every lyric shared. I’d recommend this for everyone willing to listen.

  21. I have to say I was shocked at hearing a negative review of these guys. That was a first. But then I was very proud to see that the majority of the comments here were defending TOP. I find it ridiculously hard not to like these guys. When I first heard “Holding On To You”, it caught my attention definitely, but it wasn’t until I saw them live that I really got into them. Ever since, I haven’t been able to STOP listening to them.
    1.) Their sound is so unique BECAUSE of the change up between pop, to rap, to synths, etc.
    2.) Tyler has an incredible voice because you can actually hear the pain and emotion behind his words when he sings them. You don’t need to have a perfect voice to show emotion, and sometimes those raw screams and shaky voice parts are ten times better than a clean polished note.
    3.) The lyrics to all their songs can definitely strike a chord within anyone. To go against what another user said, you do not have to be “schizo or emo” to relate to their music. I’m a perfectly happy individual who can still find meaning and inspiration in what it took for Tyler to write these songs. To appreciate the fact that he is putting all his fears and emotions on the line for everyone to hear. That truly takes guts, which is something that some artists just don’t have nowadays.
    4.) Their live performances are incredible. Tyler said himself that he and Josh try to put on a show that you won’t forget. A show that incorporates all who are there and makes you just feel this unity. I truly have never seen a concert comparable to the live performance they put on for us and I would jump at the chance to see them again.
    5.) Like others said, these guys were able to get a following and sell out shows BEFORE they signed to any record label. That shows incredible talent. How many artists are able to do that? Very few.

    These two normal guys have created something that no one can replicate. Their style is original, fresh, and extremely influential and inspiring. Perhaps give the album a few listens before judging them. Many albums aren’t appreciated the first time around and take several listens for them to grow on people. Sometimes it takes me 4 or 5 times of hearing one song to finally discover what the song is about because each time I’m focusing on different parts of the song. If people just glanced over artistic creations, nothing would ever be appreciated. We’d find everything to be mediocre at best if we didn’t look deeper than the surface.

  22. This duo doesn’t need to “grab hold” of any genre. They don’t want to stick to one thing. This is a good record with good songs and good lyrics. They have so many different qualities that appeal to so many different people. There are so many songs you’ve neglected to recognize. They have a message and if you’re too closed minded to see it, that is no one’s fault but yours. Power to the Local Dreamer. |-/

  23. This article broke my heart for the sheer fact that the author has NO IDEA what they are talking about. My first song i heard from 21P was car radio, and i instantly fell in love. Not only did i fall in love i have devoured every song they have released and revel in the fact that EACH song is different. Every song pulls at a different emotion, and each song makes me feel something special.

    I recently had the opportunity to see them live at 104.5 Winters Jam, and for those not from Philadelphia Winter Jam is an out door free concert that 21P was head lining, and that day it was 20degrees out and snowing. The show was running behind and EVERYONE stayed in the snow, and slush, and freezing temps just to hear Tyler Josephs beautiful voice cascade over our cold souls, and warm us all up.

    Are they out of left field? absolutely. Is their CD a mixed bag? Absolutely, but they are GENIUSES, and they will stay around because they are so different. They have a fan for life with me.

  24. This band is a great band because they do not conform to the way we think music should be. I love this band because there are only two members, because they are able to put rap and hip-hop in the same song, I love them because they are different. They don’t make their music like that on accident, they made it like that on purpose and it seems to have gotten a lot of hits. Maybe you’re just way too uptight about the music you listen to. If you don’t like them, don’t right about them, move on to the next band.

  25. Okay your a dumbass first off people like you enjoy generic music and Tyler and josh are not and will never be that they do what they feel is right to them and every single song on every single album is phenomenal deep and very impressive due to their age so stop talking.

    Grade: S+

    Download: screen

  26. It is pretty hilarious listening to all these whining millennial christians get butt-hurt over a shitty “band” getting a less than stellar review. “How dare you critique something I’ve gotten so emotionally invested in?” All they’re doing is very poorly mixing a genre that fell out of popularity a decade ago with tweenwave and claiming christian roots in order to take advantage of a group of people who are blindly overly passionate about anything labeled the same as them.

  27. This is the worst review. This album is by far the best of 2013 and I still listen to it all the time. It never gets old for me. There is not a single track on the album I don’t like. Tyler’s flow is great and he has an amazing voice. He is one of the most talented people in modern music. The album;s lyrics are always good and relate and if you still don’t think they are good, try seeing them in concert. They are beyond amazing live, and I have seen them 4 times. Also to say Ode To Sleep is a mess is ridiculous. It is amazing the way it incorporates so many different styles and switches from minor to major. Also my favorite tracks like Migraine, Guns For Hands, and Trees are so strong and you didn’t mention them. I would respect this review, but you obviousness haven’t did your research on the album and the lyrics.

  28. This was not a music review. If you wanna do a music review, learn a thing or two about musical theory and truly examine their songs. This was an “I’m gonna listen to the songs and give vague explanations about how they ‘feel'” review. Besides, Tyler is actually a very talented singer, way more talented than these lip syncing, auto-tuning pop “musicians” nowadays. Just you don’t like the way he sings takes nothing away of the wide range of his vocals, that’s where the real talent lies

  29. Sorry you don’t like inconsistency, but that’s one thing that made this band so popular. They’re so unique, so different, and it’s beautiful. And maybe I’m the minority but I’m definitely a fan of Tyler’s rapping. I think he’s quite talented and Josh’s drumming is just as amazing. I’ve seen these guys 4 times live and they just get better and better. We don’t want consistency in their next album, it was so beautiful because every song was so different. Being a Christian, I actually can relate to this band and understand them and what their lyrics are truly about, and actually connect with their songs. Almost every song is incredibly powerful. If you don’t understand this album then go start rating one direction and Justin bieber albums an A+ because that’s how smart you sound in your reviews.

  30. 21 Pilots is a band many of my friends like, but I honestly HATE them. They’re sound is awful. There’s too much going on. The lead singer is terrible and I am pretty sure my ears bled while listening to “Car Radio”, which I felt didn’t really have lyrics that were easy to relate to. I have been through hardships, but this band isn’t even a band. I never want to hear their “music” again. Their “unique style” (trash) doesn’t work.

  31. This review just makes me chuckle. Not everyone is going to understand, but I’m really glad I’m one of the people that do.

    If you didn’t like Vessel, I can’t imagine what you’d say about Blurryface. Literally every song on that album is a different music genre.

  32. Tyler’s made it clear through many of his song lyrics that he is aware of his imperfections regarding music. Tyler pours his soul into his music, which is truly hard to find. I understand that some people won’t like their style, but that doesn’t mean that their music is bad (or as cringe-worthy as this close-minded review.) Their lyrics are relatable and they’ve got unique songs for so many different emotions that teens and young adults feel. If their music seems disarrayed at times, it’s because their magic is a direct link to the heart and soul of these musicians and those who listen to the music. (C-??? Really?)

  33. Wow…. I mean really, wow….. It’s all been said before in the comments, but you really need to stick to Nickleback and maybe some Creed reviews. You so missed the mark and now these guys have seriously blown up! GREAT album, as is Blurryface!

  34. This review is honestly just ridiculous. If you want manufactured pop, listen to Katy Perry. If you want clean radio vocals and mindless beats, listen to any number of top 40 artists whose lyrics don’t go further than cars, clubs and girls.
    Tyler is a phenomenal performer and one of the best lyricists I’ve ever come across; it really takes something to cover such dark and tortured thoughts in a way that the listener can relate to so easily. He says himself that the production and performance is poetry based, so rap is a loose term for any TØP music regardless. Vessel as an album deliberately does not pigeon hole itself, which is the whole idea of the band, so any review chastising it for not doing so is clearly not really taking into account the artist in question or how they present themselves.

    This review is written like you listened to an album of a band you googled as an afterthought.

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