You’re on a date, in an Uber, heading to a romantic location. Would you moderately be listening to a podcast through which your ex-wife is laying naked the dissolution of your relationship, or the brand new Twenty One Pilots single? For BoJack Horseman’s Mr. Peanutbutter, the selection is all too simple. “Ew, again to the podcast,” the oblivious, tongue-wagging canine actor coolly requests after his killer whale driver (that is BoJack Horseman, in spite of everything) provides him and his date Pickles a quick respite from listening to ex Diane Nguyen discuss trash on his failings as a companion. If you’re not a daily BoJack viewer, that sentence would possibly elicit quite a lot of questions, however after watching the scene throughout the present’s good fifth season, I solely had one: What does this adorably silly golden retriever have towards Twenty One Pilots?
Dating again no less than to the times of Nickelback, the tradition surrounding pop music — particularly because it exists by the lens of social media — has usually thrived on rallying round frequent villains. Ironically, a lot of the ire directed towards these aforementioned Canadian lunkhead-rockers light into countless, good-natured memedom because the digital age swallowed the discourse complete, however targets large and small have since popped up: Taylor Swift clearly looms giant, Rita Ora and Jessie J’s inexplicable and occasional ubiquity has been recognized to rankle pop’s nerdier set, and Macklemore and the Chainsmokers each took turns within the crosshairs throughout their moments of Zeitgeist dominance.
You may argue that Post Malone has since taken up the mantle of well-liked music’s public enemy No. 1 — however his continued success and unusually endearing persona have turned lots of his detractors into grudging admirers, and regardless of notching a Top 10 hit this yr, comedy-rap bonehead du jour Lil Dicky’s not fairly there but when it comes to mass visibility. There’s a void within the place which our collective pop coronary heart hates — are two post-genre pop-rock alchemists from Columbus, Ohio, actually meant to fill it?
When contemplating the disparate components of their ascent — from punk-adjacent Fueled by Ramen upstarts to the primary act in RIAA historical past to have each monitor on their album obtain a Gold certification — the ire directed their method makes a little bit of sense. Most of most of the people’s introduction to Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s polyglot sound was 2015’s “Stressed Out,” taken from the aforementioned record-breaking Blurryface from that yr; the only peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured the previous’s rapping — arguably probably the most noxious high quality of Twenty One Pilots’ sound —entrance and middle. Fellow album reduce “Ride” was equally profitable, peaking at No. 5 on the power of a reggae-centric construction not not like Canadian fake-patois goons Magic!’s simply hateable hit “Rude.”
Keeping according to their kitchen-sink style method established from 2009’s self-titled debut on, Blurryface featured strung-out hip-hop beats and blasts of grating EDM rubbing elbows with hammy, theater-kid piano figures — and did I point out the rapping? “This just isn't rap, this isn't hip-hop,” Joseph spits on opening monitor “Heavydirtysoul,” one of some songs within the band’s discography that additionally alludes to his practising Christian religion, “Rapping to show nothing/ Just writing to say one thing.” In our post-Macklemore local weather, bars like these coming from a man who seems to be like this will invite the kind of mass derision that MAGA hat-wearers solely dream of.
Keeping all of this in thoughts, I've some horrible information for Twenty One Pilots’ would-be detractors: they’re really getting … higher. The duo’s fifth album Trench dropped final Friday, and Joseph and band mate Josh Dun are persevering with to refine their sound with reasonably interesting outcomes. It stays to be seen whether or not it packs the hit-charting capability that Blurryface — which debuted on the high of the Billboard 200 on week of launch — surprisingly possessed; it actually doesn’t appear to augur effectively that solely certainly one of Trench’s 4 singles (the beating “Jumpsuit”) has cracked the highest 50 of the Hot 100. But keep in mind that “Ride” reached its chart peak a full yr after the album’s launch, and that rock-leaning acts within the 2010s have been fortunate to see such chart success as soon as of their whole careers, by no means thoughts per album cycle. Chart-wise, that is long-game music.
Lest you assume they’ve completely shed their most probably divisive qualities, there’s nonetheless a little bit of rapping and a reggae-ish rhythm right here and there, in addition to a imprecise conceptual bent with discuss of fictional cities and nefarious bishops. But Trench’s mid-level highs are simple sufficient to get pleasure from while not having a Coheed & Cambria–esque grimoire to type all of it out.
Trench was co-produced by Joseph and Paul Meany of fellow faith-adjacent rockers Mutemath, and the album as a complete possesses the kind of cool-handed neon sound that briefly put Meany’s fundamental act on the buzz-making map within the 2000s. Still a going concern, Mutemath’s 2006 self-titled debut represented one of some cases within the period of MP3 blogs the place bands may accrue grassroots recognition by the use of sounding like Pitchfork-beloved indie acts with out really being lined by Pitchfork; equally, there are quite a lot of moments on Trench — the M83-aping closing monitor “Leave the City,” “Morph“‘s watery PBR&B refrain, the full-band bombast of “Cut My Lip” that sound like they’d attraction to that indie-centric website’s readership circa 5 or 6 years in the past.
The easy, slippery digital pop-rock of Trench primarily smooths Twenty One Pilots’ eccentricities in a method that makes their sound extra palatable than ever earlier than — an debatable enchancment over their previous work that nonetheless feels ominous for his or her future. In his detrimental writeup of the album, music critic Steven Hyden laments Trench’s placid, mid-tempo, no-right-angles sound and attributes it to extra nefarious technological advances within the music business: “What streaming has finished is implore artists to dial again the obnoxiousness, sand off the tough edges, and excise the rest that may intrude with the countless circulate of fastidiously modulated information pouring out of your laptop computer audio system.”
Indeed, it’s not onerous to think about one thing just like the ghostly pitter-patter of the psychological well being–targeted “Neon Gravestones” segueing completely right into a Post Malone single, or becoming completely in a curated playlist designed for days when life’s obtained you down. There’s nothing on Trench that comes near hinting on the sonic stridency Twenty One Pilots possessed previously — and though its even-keeled vibe is likely to be a boon for his or her streaming numbers, it additionally threatens to render them extra nameless than ever, pointing to a future through which their faces blur previous the purpose of hateability and towards whole obsolescence.