Thursday, July 18

Album review: Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Trench’ falls flat, fails to produce a variety of sounds

(Photo courtesy of Fueled by Ramen)

(Photo courtesy of Fueled by Ramen)


Twenty One Pilots

Fueled By Ramen

Released Friday

“Trench” is a cohesive album – but not in a good way.

Twenty One Pilots dropped its latest album Friday, and it featured 14 songs, of which only three stood out. The remaining numbers blended together in an unmemorable collection of all-too-similar sounds, with many sharing the same overall beat and lyrical rhythms. Many songs throughout the album offered bursts of potential in their intros or through short, innovative bridges, but the little flourishes of creativity ultimately fell flat in an album that sounds more like an unmistakable recreation of hits like “Stressed Out” than a new piece of art.

The duo began “Trench” with “Jumpsuit,” a song released as a single in July and the album’s opener. The mediocre song reaches for metaphor, but crumbles in the repetitive nature of its lyrics, with only a slight shining moment about three-and-a-half minutes in, as the song drifts into the genre of screamo.

From here, the album improves, but only slightly. The rough start is remotely redeemed through songs like “Levitate” and “Morph,” which both feature clever verses that set them apart slightly from the predictability of their choruses. However, the spoken-word poetry gets old immediately, and Tyler Joseph’s falsetto can only be described as unfortunate.

The album spends a significant amount of its runtime alternating between the falsetto – something Joseph must have suddenly decided he could execute well enough to feature multiple times – and spoken lyrics. The result is an overarching sameness throughout. Where other artists may have used the 14 songs to experiment with their sound, the duo instead decided on staying within their stylistically similar noise.

Even in songs with promising beginnings, time brings them back to familiar Twenty One Pilots territory. “Chlorine” begins with a voice speaking through what sounds like a distant radio, echoing into an ominous fluctuation. The music crackles in, creating a new grunge aesthetic. Except the lyrics come about 20 seconds into the song, flaunting the tired rhythm and flow typical of Twenty One Pilots’ list of hits.

The persisting unoriginality even overshadows the lyrical depth in a few songs. The album’s closing number, “Leave The City,” boasts a few powerful lyrics like, “The burning is so low it’s concerning / ‘Cause they know that when it goes out / It’s a glorious gone.” Despite the lyrics’ metaphorical depth about life’s difficulties, the overused beat and predictable flow make the song forgettable.

Though most of “Trench” fell drastically short of anything classifiable as creative, there were a few bearable – and sometimes even good – outliers. “Bandito” does not use the same lyrical melodies as older songs like “Ride,” making it something worth listening to, if only once. The song is also the only instance throughout the album in which spoken lyrics also feel necessary, conveying emotional vulnerability about connecting with fans and creating music in search of peace.

“Smithereens” is perhaps the only song on Twenty One Pilots’ latest album that makes use of a falsetto in a decent manner. As one of the slower songs on the album, the lyrics and its delivery are what stand out. The lyrics are typically personal – Joseph reveals he weighs 153 pounds – yet they feel genuinely vulnerable because they work well with the music’s simple notes, as opposed to the rest of the album.

In what may be the most sonically distinct song on “Trench,” “The Hype” sounds like a number pulled straight from the 2000s. It is the only song done in such a style, and it features some of the most notable lyrics on the album: “Yeah, they might be talking behind your head / Your exterior world can step off instead / It might take some friends and a warmer shirt / But you don’t get thick skin without getting burnt.” The lines are deep but offer a glimpse of hope for fans who may be dealing with the pain suggested in the song.

While Twenty One Pilots is known for metaphorical lyrics, they rarely stand out on the band’s latest collection. A mix of poor vocals, repeated flows and lack of sonic variety do not work well for “Trench.” But one thing is certain – Joseph is a good spoken-word poet. He just shouldn’t label it music.


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Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.

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  • Noemi


  • ethan

    This album is too complex for your simple mind. This album was made for the fans not for mainstream media, Tyler Joseph wasn’t interested in trying to make a record for the world he’s dedicated to his fan base. Their real fans are loving the album because we follow their story and we understand what he’s saying.

    • Tracy Bates

      Agreed! Thank you for your comment.

    • Floofy McSpoofy

      I couldn’t have said it better!

    • Ewolgirl

      Here here!! This album does sound like TOP, but is certainly not a repeat of Blurry Face. It has a maturity that shows the progression of the band. There are those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t.

  • Marnita H

    Made an account just to say this: this “review” is inaccurate, definitely one sided and confounding. Every single song in Trench is different – they each produce “a varity of sounds”. Anyone with working ears and a compatible brain can understand that. Fans alike know the story and have been through its journey, obviously this reviewer hasn’t. I for one, had different emotions for each and every song, all positive and tear jerking. Trench is more than a cohesive album. At least be educated before a review, even one as bad as this.

  • Tracy Bates

    I couldn’t possibly disagree more with you, but we’ll leave you to your opinion.

  • Click4Cringe has a pet cheetah

    I made an account on here just to say how much I disagree with you.

    • Tina

      Same! BAHAHAHA

    • Natalie Kobylka


    • jenny

      omg SAME? whoever wrote this has naver listened to the instrumentals. can’t even find the words to explain how pissed off I am.!

      also. their new songs aren’t getting much airplay to and the new songs out are better than the singles on blurry face. when I listen to trench I only skip cut my lip. that’s all. I’m not one of those people who fans who like every song I just because it’s tø. I hated trench at first but it grew on me.. After like 4 listens.and love it. I this album is scored 99% on Google. it got better reviews than blurry face. in fact never seen such high marks on any album.. I don’t understand how blurry face songs got played on the radio a lot. but why not this album?? none of their singles on trench have gotten airplayl,and sre not getting high on the charts. I’m beyond baffled!

  • spooky easter


  • Alin Rivera

    Are you sure, they had so much variety. I’m disappointed in this review, you guys are better than this.

  • Tina

    I was laughing all the way through reading this review because I just KNOW it is trolling at its finest. I needed that laugh man. If there is anyway on earth you were serious with what was said in this review, I’m really sorry that your myopic intellect will not allow you to perceive and/or comprehend the sonic and lyrical diversity in this 11/10 album. Could not be me or, in fact, anyone who possesses adequate hearing and understanding.
    Before you write a review, please ensure you actually know good music. You probably enjoy music that is flat, formulaic, rudimentary and shallow. Hence, your disliking to this album (which could not be further from the qualities mentioned).
    I’ll fix that title for you: Elli Countryman’s ‘Album review’ falls flatter than ironed paper, fails to exhibit sound understanding of ineffable music.

    • Tracy Bates

      Thank you so much, you expressed what so many TØP fans feel about Trench.

    • Skelly Army

      whoever made this article needs to look at the bigger picture. Maybe the songs do sound similar, but that’s because they are all part of a story. And it’s beautiful.

    • jenny

      or at least listen to the instrumentals!

  • *5 Star

    Eli, i didnt fully read your trash article cause you are bias and full of it. You don’t have an ear for music and your journalism career will go nowhere if u continue to show this lack of intellect and comprehension in your writing. Trench was absolute fire and worthy of album of the year.

    Standout tracks: pet cheetah, levitate, bandito. Morph, cut my lip, neon gravestones, hype, jumpsuit, leave the city

  • Floofy McSpoofy

    This article is complete BS. If you don’t like them or their music, why would you take the time to write AN ENTIRE ARTICLE on their new album?

  • Rob Pol

    For once, this ISN’T an example of twenty one pilots fans attacking someone just because they have a different opinion.

    Anyone with an ear for music can see how ridiculous a review this is. To claim that the main fault of this album is that it all sounds too similar is just laughable.

    1) Jumpsuit- pulsating rock basslines
    2) Levitate- two-and a half minutes of straight rap with stripped-back instrumentals
    3) Morph- just bat-shit crazy and all over the place (but great)
    4) My Blood- indie disco tune (first ‘formulaic pop song)
    5) Chlorine- slow groove with a final minute and a half that comes out of no-where
    6) Smithereens- ukelele love song

    Not going to go through every track obviously, but just looking at the first 6 tracks it is blatant that the structure and style of each song is varied.

    Eli, did you even do High School music?

  • Cat

    Alright so I’m not gonna be annoying and come after you for nothing but if your entire explanation is “mediocre and repetitive” you’re gonna have to come up with something better. Trench is a fantastic balance of cohesive tracks that maintain a beautiful variety of genres and sounds. It’s an album full of genius lyrics, interesting sounds, and unique songs. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

  • Raegan

    I don’t trust a review that doesn’t mention Neon Gravestones.

  • Jessica Peiker

    Opinions do not have to be backed with facts. That’s what makes them opinions.

  • Natalie Kobylka

    I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion but, as a music/arts editor I expected the review to at least be thoughtful and educated. You contradict yourself several times.

    Trench is a stand out album.

    • penny

      Amazing that you can say that this album falls flat, but yet, when I listen, I can hear the growth the guys have shown. Sadly, we live in a world where everyone can voice their opinion , and we can disagree with what is said and I couldn’t disagree with your review more.
      Obviously you don’t like the band, hence the disgraceful review, but thankfully we as fans of these two amazingly talented guys, can appreciate what they work on and put so much of their heart and soul into and share with us.

  • lma0

    Yeah 21p isn’t good. They aren’t as bad as this article says, that’s too harsh. But they definitely aren’t good.

    • Skelly Army


  • Ankit Majumder

    You know right, that you were supposed to plug in the earphone jack to the listening device?

  • Aaron Hyde

    This review is so far removed from reality that I’m not even sure if you listened to it. Although it isn’t uptempo and poppy like their last couple albums, it really incorporates the best elements of everything they’ve released so far. It’s well produced, utilizes many different genres, is well organized, makes good use of Tyler’s vocals, and has even greater lyrical depth than their first album.

  • Still Alive

    Fantano liked it. Period.

  • Jacq Ueline

    This article is in unacceptable condition! UNACCEPTABLE!

  • Sarah G

    I LoVe lOvE how all of you just came together to defend this beautifully diverse and multi-layered album – it’s as unique as blurryface, and takes us further into the world of dema in all its complexity and dilemma. Every note and lyric is fully intentional – by simple comparison to ALL their previous albums, this fact is obvious.

  • infamouscrimes

    A very disappointing album. No where near the addictive fun of Blurryface.

    • SouthernGirl


    • Skelly Army

      *table flip*

  • Skelly Army

    i made this account just to say:

    “Scuze me, could you please leave?”

  • jenny

    wtf! no variety of sounds?! all their songs sound different.! in fact I listened to their songs and was thinking that couldn’t be tøp. the production is amazing on every song. I’m not one of those fans who love every song just like cuz it’s tøp. the opposite is true regarding the title.

    I didn’t like this album at first but all their new songs grew on me except cut my lip. whoever wrote this clearly didn’t listen to the instrumentals. that is the only song I skip. in fact. this album has rave reviews on Wikipedia. no other band that I know of. had such great reviews this year. I the album got 99% likes on Google.

    sorry this is long but, I think this is their second best album. so far.. it’s better than blurry face but blurry face had a ton of radio play. but not this album.. why no airplay? I didn’t like blurryface and it got a ton of airplay. Every song went to the top of the charts. and people tell me that they never heard their new songs. why is that?

  • Motoyo Minamoto

    Are you listening to the right album??? Totally disagree with your review.

  • kat needs a bandito

    eli, listen up, you are being so biased right now. you remind me of this leed seener kid who tried reviewing blurryface. grow up and learn this is one of their greatest albums and its the most unique yet. you may not like it, but theres over millions that do. your point is just going to have these kind of reactions so if you did this just to get this kind of publicity, thats just wrong.

  • Christopher M. Peninger

    Hmm… Maybe you should ask for a refund on that communication degree. If you wanted to Cliff note an album I think you didn’t even succeed in doing that. The rest of the comments should be enough to make you reconsider that major… Just sayin’….

  • Chad

    Yeah but who is this guy? Just a reporter? What musical background does he have? This article was biased before it was written.

    It’s a good thing people like this aren’t actually producers because he would have screwed up what has turned out to be their second best album (in terms of views).

    It has some of the cleanest production out of all. Five songs have been on the Billboard charts, with Chlorine being #1 alternative song, and both Trench and Blurryface being in the top 10 alternative albums. It’s 7 months after release and it’s still also in the top 15 rock albums..and rising.

    It won’t live up to the mainstream side of things quite like Blurryface…and I don’t believe it was intended to. If you expected a Blurryface 2.0 sonically and lyrically, then you’re part of the mainstream problem.

  • guy smith

    Your review sucks