Anyone who knew me from between the years 2015-2016 knows that I am a huge follower of Twenty One Pilots; they have always appealed to me with their hip-hop rhythm and ballad instrumentals – While in the past I took way too many of their lyrics literally, I appreciate and remember them all. Trench is the latest release from the duo Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun; I was very excited for this album, from the singles alone I could tell there had been an improvement in production… Especially after Blurryface which I would say was alright as a whole, but a lot of lyrics came across as a little cringey. Either way we have an album to review! I’ll be going through track by track like with Kendrick and giving a score based on the tracks and the album as a whole package.
Jumpsuit is the opening track for this album and was the very first single to be released – This track intrigued and terrified me when it first came out. It had been a long time since they had put out new music and they were huge now. To see how popularity influenced their first track was something I was prepared to judge, however Jumpsuit really shines as a track. There’s some great instrumentals that brings a darker tone into the discography with heavy guitars; makes me terrified for all the 14 year olds who will get caught in a mosh pit to this song at a concert – Either way it’s really enjoyable and one of the top ones of the album. Despite this, it’s not the strongest opening track they’ve ever done… But this is expected when you’re competing against Ode to Sleep and HeavyDirtySoul. Two of the best tracks from each album.
Next we head into Levitate which is actually one of the tracks I was expecting to like a lot; I’m not saying I hate it or anything, but this is the only one on the track list I think I need to let grow on me. Theoretically it should be right up my ally as it’s really hip-hop influenced and Tyler demonstrates a pretty great flow on this, however I think I need to get used to it a bit. Despite this the production on the track itself is really clean – I can see myself really enjoying this one down the line; up next with Morph and this was the first new track I heard today which wasn’t a single. After listening to it for a few days I have to say I really like this one. The instrumental and hook are just really popping – It might not be for everyone but there’s something really relaxing about this track and it’s done so well, coming out as one of my strongest of the entire project.
My Blood is up and this is the single that really got me hyped for this album – This is a perfect blend of classic Twenty One Pilots along with what makes the new so exciting. This is a song I hear on the radio really often and I always take my earphones out to listen along to it; it doesn’t get really hype like Jumpsuit does, but it does bring out a level of joy and sing-along power. The chorus and “I’ll go with you” is just a really good listen and this is still one of my favourite tracks on the entire track-list. Tyler really improved his singing over time – A lot of people used to call it cringe as he mainly screamed, but My Blood really shows Tyler can use his vocals in an effective and meaningful way. Also quick shout-out to Pip for freaking out at the exact time the music video for this dropped which was also produced to a high standard. It also reflects the song’s message, about family.
By this point I could already tell I would enjoy this more than Blurryface, but you’ve gotta listen to them all before you can really say that… But it was clearly true for me. The lyrics felt mature and the production man, I keep talking about it but each song just proves it. I was expecting a bit of cringe from some of this but it has really overwhelmed me with surprise. Anyway, Chlorine was next, another new track which would catch me out by surprise on the first time – This was another where the beat jumped out for me, I couldn’t believe I was listening to the same band from 5 years ago; the classic formula was still there, but everything sounds so polished and the vocals are improved. Chlorine feels like a darker track along with Jumpsuit, the theme seems to be about suicide… Which isn’t an untouched topic for the band.
Trench highlights a lot of things for me. Tyler Joseph really has matured as a vocalist, the songs where he lets him self scream and shriek a bit are more controlled than they were. One of the weakest parts of the Self Titled album was how his vocals would come out as messy and raw – While it was emotional it wasn’t always the best to listen to quality wise, but each song here sounds like Tyler always has but with the right amount of polish and singing lessons.
I’m going to try jump through a few songs at a time now to keep up with this review and we’ll talk more overall about the project at the end. Smithereens is a sweet song about Joseph’s wife Jenna; he has always included a song about her on previous albums and Trench is no exception. I feel like this one is more personal than Tear In My Heart, even if it’s less radio friendly – Again, clean sounds, enjoyable lyrics. Really just a feel good track here.
Neon Gravestones comes up next and is a bit of an oddity for me; at first I wasn’t feeling the musical sound of things, I wasn’t trying to look into lyrics as far as I would at 16 because I didn’t want it to get like that again, however Neon Gravestones lyrically has a pretty good point. It’s all about glorifying suicide and about the media’s approach to the topic. Joseph discusses how some artists will only get the attention they deserved after they kill themselves – This comes fresh after TV shows like 13 Reasons Why have been discussed in heavy nature. Neon Gravestones takes an appropriate approach about a serious topic and it succeeds at that. It’s not one I’d typically go out of my way to listen to, but I appreciate the way they handled the topic for once.
The Hype is a good song to listen to even with it’s darker tone – In fact it somehow sounds like Wonderwall on the chorus and really stuck out to me on first listen. Lyrically talking about the hype around the band and how Tyler does not believe it will last, insisting that he doesn’t “believe the hype”. The Band has always talked about being popular and what comes with that; Blurryface was the wrong way to do that. Blurryface had songs all about how their songs would never get famous, at the exact time the songs got famous… So a lot of it came off as edgy and trying to be hipster almost. However The Hype doesn’t derail and is actually enjoyable to listen along to.
Nico and the Niners was released at the same time as Jumpsuit and my immediate thought was “this ain’t it chief”. At first this one did not resonate with me at all, I wasn’t into the backstory and fictional universe surrounding the album before the release of the single. It has grown on me a little bit, but is still one of the weaker tracks for me – Lyrically I just didn’t get any clear message from it and I know it’s because of the backstory but it’s going to take a while for it to stick out as much as the others. This track certainly maintains the strength of being very atmospheric and setting the tone of this fictional space the band wants us to be a part of… So I give it credit for that.
Cut My Lip is the next track and I’ve seen this one discussed a lot – I immediately picked up on some Reggae inspired flows from Tyler. I’m not always the hugest fan of the Reggae songs they attempt, as the band has a selection of genres it likes to do a spin on. Cut My Lip does feel like it falls into the bottom half of my favourites but it also does a better job than previous attempts. I think the production and flow are clean and tight which gets me a more enjoyable experience out of it.
Bandito is a much more emotional ballad and relates again directly to the lore of the fictional universe – Lyrically this is talking about forming up together as Bandito’s which are essentially rebels in this fictional tale; the chorus and general verses remain quite simple in this song, however it is stretched over 5 minutes and actually succeeds to hold my attention. It’s very sweet to take different things away from the song – While a casual listener can enjoy the melody and perhaps the story it is telling, a fan of the band will feel it as a calling, to feel a part of the family. I could very much imagine seeing this as the new anthem for the fanbase. While I fit it in the bottom half of my favourites I think that only stems from my excitement around the other tracks more, but this is still pleasant.
Pet Cheetah was exactly what I was looking for from Levitate, containing one of my favourite beat drops from the band’s discography. This has a flow that serves its purpose and a beat to match it. I was unsure in the opening section as the vocals seemed to be less impressive compared to what we had heard so far, however after verse 2 my mind was changed pretty drastically, easily coming out as a strong track. Straight after this was Legend, a track which I also adore to bits – It tells a very sad tale about Tyler’s grandfather who died; the song implies that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and losing his memory – It’s a sad yet oddly jolly song – This comes from Tyler’s religious take on things as it talks about getting to enjoy another lunch with him again, relating to the afterlife, and Tyler remains positive about everything. A nice change from the overly dramatic and downright sad way’s Tyler would approach such topics in Self Titled. A solid tune with a great vocal performance from Tyler.
The final song is Leave The City and is one of my favourite slow paced ballads from the group – It does a great job at closing off the album as a whole both in its performance and its tone – It comes from a personal place and again relates to the idea that everyone is in this together. Blurryface as an album felt like Tyler Joseph losing a mental health battle, in which turn some fans (Me included) made ourselves relate to that with the lyrics, so I was happy to see an actual positive light come out of this one at the end. As genius describes the song as “Tyler Joseph coming to terms with the fact that battling a mental health problem takes time and that the path to addressing it is not always straightforward”, which is true and hopeful – Also the song deals with Tyler knowing the band won’t be successful forever, but for now he will stay alive. A very touching and again well produced song to close off on.
As a whole this album pleasantly and thankfully surprised me. I’m ready to be a Twenty One Pilots fan-boy gain after hearing this new direction – It’s already encouraged me to enjoy my favourites off of Vessel and Self Titled alongside Trench. At first I thought Vessel would remain to be my favourite, an album which I scored a 78/100 overall, however after hearing the crisp production on this and enjoying this a lot more than Blurryface, I have to say Trench rises above. It delivers something fresh and familiar to fans and first time listeners, coming out probably high in my top 5 of the year.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Jumpsuit, Morph, My Blood, Chlorine, The Hype, Pet Cheetah, Legend, Leave The City
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACKS: Smithereens, Nico And The Niners
After working out some scores and basing my opinion as a whole I’m gonna give Trench an: