Following the dark, grimy sound of Trench, Twenty One Pilots have returned after a year’s hiatus with Scaled and Icy, an album full of summertime anthems begging to be played with the windows down.
Scaled and Icy is a peppy, pop-like album that doesn’t compromise on lyrics.
The album provides something for all Twenty One Pilots fans, from those who are simply into alt to their most devoted aficionados.
Taken at a surface level, the album is a breath of fresh air. Except for the last two tracks, it is peaceful but bright.
It calls on inspiration from pop music all the way back to the 80s, with tracks like “Good Day”, which leans on the calming piano, or “Saturday”, which could be mistaken for a Maroon 5 hit.
In comparison to the colorful sound, however, the lyrics are desaturated and heavy.
Tyler Joseph, the frontman of the band duo, presents questions about isolation and loneliness and the struggles associated with them.
In an interview with Zane Lowe, Joseph opened up about his writing process and inspiration for the album.
He explained that he derived inspiration from imagining if his family had passed, leaving him alone. Joseph goes through the stages of grief and imagines how he would tackle loneliness in his hysteria.
Joseph also wanted to present a sound that is distinctly different from that found in Trench.
After pushing boundaries with his previous album, he wanted Scaled and Icy to return to the basics of songwriting, following familiar structures.
The album’s marketing helped to build how Scaled and Icy fits within DEMA, a fictitious world built by Twenty One Pilots.
Starting with Blurryface in 2015, the band released many cryptic clues, puzzles, and songs with hints in their lyrics to introduce DEMA. Listeners were introduced to Clancy, the leader and messenger of the rebellion.
In Trench, the listeners learned even more about DEMA and a rebellious group called the Banditos that hoped to liberate the citizens of DEMA.
Joseph personifies his creative writing process through DEMA and the Banditos.
He expresses how he relies on his “internal demons” as inspiration for his music but still needs his friends, family and craft to help him escape the pain.
“Scaled and Icy” was introduced in Twenty One Pilots’ Christmas Saves the Year cover art which stated that “SAI Is Propaganda”.
Fans noticed that Scaled and Icy is an anagram for “Clancy is dead,” and that the DMAORG site was taken over by DEMA, implying that DEMA is no longer silent.
Scaled and Icy is ultimately presented as DEMA propaganda to drown out the sounds of the Banditos.
Like many musicians this year, Twenty One Pilots opted for a livestream event to celebrate the release of the album.
Over 3.6 million people tuned into their hour-long, Broadway-style production and received the quality entertainment expected of a Twenty One Pilots concert.
For those invested in the world of DEMA, the livestream event pushed its narrative further, alongside the music and dancing.
Twenty One Pilots may have disappointed fans looking for another Trench, but those interested in the new wave of alt, the world the band has built and a classy livestream have had a real treat.