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‘Scaled and Icy’: Twenty One Pilots’ New Album Brings Optimism In The Pandemic

The alt-rock duo’s genre-hopping sixth album could take a few listens to get used to

Tanushi Bhatnagar May 29, 2021

Twenty One Pilots. Photo: Mason Castillo

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If you have jammed out to “Stressed Out,” “Ride” or “Heathens,” you are no stranger to Twenty One Pilots. The Grammy-winning Ohio-based duo released their sixth album, Scaled and Icy, on May 21st, after a three-year wait following their 2018 album Trench. A product of over a year-long effort under lockdown conditions, Scaled and Icy, short for ‘scaled-up and isolated’, was recorded and produced remotely from guitarist-vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Joshua Dun’s  respective homes. 

Although a potential risk to their popularity, the duo moves away from their usual low-rumble alternative rock style and experiments with a potpourri of genres with a more colorful and breezy synth-pop sound inspired by the groovy Eighties. SAI is a compact album tightly packing 11 songs in just under 38 minutes.

Joseph’s popularity comes from his courageous and hard-hitting lyrics in the duo’s discography, which often seem like a curtainless window to his mind. He has previously addressed issues like mental health, insecurity, fear, loss, and loneliness through seemingly uninteresting topics like comparing losing a car radio to losing sanity over sitting in silence. Contrastingly, SAI brings more upbeat and optimistic lyrics, aiming to bring a ray of sunshine in the dismal sky of pandemic anxiety. The piano-pop track “Good Day” kicks off the album with the lyrics, I can feel my saturation leaving me slowly. Superficially, the album seems to be more pop-oriented. However, their fans will not be disappointed as the closing track “Redecorate” circles back to Twenty One Pilotsoriginal sound. “No Chances” is another track on the record which reminisces of the duo’s alt-rock legacy. 

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The thematic story of Twenty One Pilots is more convoluted than seems to the eye. The Skeleton Clique, the duo’s loyal fanbase, has deduced that Scaled and Icy is an anagram for ‘Clancy is dead,a reference to the protagonist of their 2018 album Trench. The duo’s album mythology, which explores the story of Clancy escaping from the oppressive state of Dema, continues with SAI’s release. 

Twenty One Pilots released three singles ahead of the album release — their lead track “Shy Away,” the alternative pop track “Choker” and the peppy pop track “Saturday.” Although the album has its fair share of hints of dullness, tracks like “No Chances,” “Mulberry Street” and “Redecorate” reveal sparks of the genius that have brought Joseph and Dun to this summit over the last two decades. To one accustomed to Twenty One Pilots’ drum and bass heavy music, the album will take a couple of listens to adjust to but nonetheless, it won’t leave you standing still.

Stream ‘Scaled and Icy’ below.

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