The third album of Twenty One Pilots, Vessel, celebrated its 4th birthday on 8th January.
Vessel evokes a signature Twenty One Pilots vibe in a nutshell; potent and important themes wrapped up in danceable and happy songs.
Take “Holding On To You”, for example; a powerful ‘stay alive’ anthem if we ever heard one. Yet most of the track (aside from the beautiful “entertain my faith” interlude) gifts us a beat we can dance to.
Lean with it,
Rock with it!
What of the other songs on Vessel?
“Migraine”, brings a sing-song sound to suicidal thoughts and mental anguish, inviting others who are ‘waging wars’ behind faces and throats to recognise just how far they’ve already come.
“House Of Gold” takes the future (horrifying) prospect of the loss of a parent and bathes it in light & sweet ukulele and toe-tapping drums.
“Car Radio” takes inner mental torture and turns it into an anthem of collective fierceness about the difficulty of facing it.
“Semi-Automatic” places electronic boops, a skipping beat and ‘doo doo doos’ up against a wrestling match with one’s identity. (But we’ll live on, yeah we’ll live on, yeah yeah yeah!)
“Screen” takes a tinkling toy piano-esque melody and sprinkles it across a burning question of just how much of ourselves we can (safely) reveal.
“The Run And Go” smothers fear of the self and discomfort with reaching out for help with a wall of do-do-do-do-do-do-do’s.
“Fake You Out” brings electromelodies and voice edits in waves, layering them with fear of negative reactions to one’s self. But here we are in honesty: Our brains are sick but that’s okay.
And “Guns For Hands” invites us to bounce around to a catchy beat and a light piano, instead of hurting ourselves.
The final two tracks of Vessel more comfortably show themselves:
“Trees” brings a stream of ‘la la la’s and a chorus of claps to a forest where we’re desperately trying to know more about Whomever, and hope they speak to us. (“Hello!”)
“Truce” is a last gasp of the album. It says that though we may be fearful and alone, the morning will come and there is more than this darkness. Stay alive.
This light and shade intertwined, is something special, which has listeners of Vessel feel both understood (and not judged) where they are, as well as encouraged that there is something more ahead. That there’s hope. And even if we’re not feeling hopeful yet, we can sing along in the meantime.
This is special. Vessel is special.
The track we’ve not touched on yet, “Ode To Sleep” has been left last on purpose, because it’s our favourite of the album, and our Track Of The Day today.
“Ode To Sleep” has the feel and sound of multiple songs within a song, perhaps reflecting the different faces we have:
- A daytime ‘face’ that has us power on and go through the motions (“I wake up fine and dandy”)
- An anxious ‘face’ where we feel ourselves falling apart (“planning my crash landing”)
- A questioning/analysing ‘face’ that wonders why things are this way (“Why am I not scared in the morning?”)
- And the ‘face’ who is desperately asking for help from a higher power (“Why won’t you let me go?” “Please tell them you have no plans for me”)
Again, like the other songs on Vessel, “Ode To Sleep” is a darkly themed song (wrestling demons at night that demand greatly of a person), with musical sunshine. There are ‘spooky’ chords and effects, but they lift soon enough and the piano and drums invite us to dance. It’s an epic of a song, perfectly expressing the phases we may move through when dealing with something, leading to complete inability to sleep and feeling the frustration of that. We didn’t ask for this, set us free.
Happy Birthday, Vessel. Thank you for giving us space to be honest in our darkness and also invite us to dance and sing along with your light.