2016 was an amazing year for Twenty One Pilots. This dynamic duo of Tyler Joseph (vocals, piano, ukulele and bass guitar) and Josh Dun (drums and trumpet (and backflips)) won all of us over with catchy songs and relatable lyrics, gaining a massive amount of new fans and bringing their existing fanbase to tears with pride of what ‘their boys’ had achieved: Selling out Madison Square Garden. Twice. Winning multiple awards. Breaking impressive music industry records.
Twenty One Pilots seem to love their fans as much as they love them, spending most of the year on tour, all over the world. A live show means a lot to them by way of connecting to their fans, and that importance is felt by every single one of us in the audience watching them spellbound.
Toward the end of 2016 however, we received news that the guys would be taking a break from touring, so that they could focus on the next chapter ahead for Twenty One Pilots. This resulted in collective sighs of “They deserve a break” and soon after “But, we’ll miss them!”.
So when the Blurryface Twitter account teased remixes of Twenty One Pilots songs, and we soon had confirmation of them coming, it was kind of like a really sweet ‘going away present’ to try to maybe tide us all over until we next meet.
TOPxMM was the creative collaboration between Twenty One Pilots and MUTEMATH (lead vocalist and keyboardist Paul Meany, drummer Darren King, guitarist Todd Gummerman, and bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas). The two alternative rock bands got together and created remixes of five Twenty One Pilots tracks that we know and love. It is my pleasure to review them.
[If you want to listen to them while reading, there are Spotify links down the bottom of the post. Go hit play and come back. I’ll wait. ;)]
The first of the five remixes was “Heathens”, originally from the Suicide Squad soundtrack. The utter beauty of this track, in particular the introduction, was something I was not prepared for. Long chords and echoing layers are what lead us to Tyler Joseph singing, his strong yet slightly dusky voice ringing out in the relative silence.
The other five members of the collaboration join in and the ordinarily strong and focused drums take on an almost psychedelic edge with the melodies introduced by MUTEMATH. The entire arrangement is chilled and flowy, even with Tyler’s voice taking on a sombre edge.
“Heavydirtysoul” is the second track and the grungy dirty bass hums we’re used to are gratefully still right there. The differences with the remix amp up more noticeably with the second verse; with more throbby bass and electronic effects. Tyler’s vocals in the chorus also seem to take on a more experimental edge. My favourite part is how Tyler reins the lyrics right in (and the instruments follow) while singing “Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit”. The outro (inclusive of “CAN YOU SAVE” screams) is amazing.
“Lane Boy” begins with more of a holiday feel to it than we might expect and the heavier bass is an instant blessing. This is a magical version of this track we know and love, with everything amplified and enhanced: Tiny lilting melodies are now strong electronic statements, a present bassline is asking us to pay attention to its awesomeness. The build up into the “Will they be alive tomorrow?” and the subsequent drop seems together and united more than frantic, and I realise that that’s been there through all of the tracks. This unity of a collaboration versus background noise propping up one element. At the end of “Lane Boy” we get the pleasure of the drum ‘conversation’ (as Darren King put it) between the two bands. Just incredible.
“Ride” is gorgeous, with a rippling melody and colliding bass layers playing together, before there is literally a ‘ride’ expressed musically. This song sounds and feels exactly as it should and is pure magic. Tyler’s vocals have the funk amped up and we love it. The bridge is a moment of stillness on this musical ride and is so very beautiful. It’s tender vocals before a building up again of the layers including drums, but this time we have a raunchy electronic bass exploration. All of the pieces come together in the outro.
For the last song, “Tear In My Heart”, you must watch the video. This song is channeling something of a funky 70s vibe and has a lengthy intro, and well what else can you do if you’re Tyler Joseph but dance? It’s an unexpected foot-tapping number though, a version of “Tear In My Heart” that is hard not to move to.
The bridge (“You fell asleep in my car I drove the whole time”) is so cruisy that it needs its own paragraph. It feels like we’re driving along an ocean road, dusky sunset, wind in our hair, pinky hues on the horizon. (Tyler cursing the government silently..)
When we rejoin the chorus we are back in funk city again, and our hearts being pulled wide open into a beautiful close.
This collaboration of six men, each excelling in their own musical artistry, was a most wonderful surprise and gift for us all. Especially as Twenty One Pilots made it available for all, for free. We are so grateful!
Enjoy below, by watching or streaming this magnificence.
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