Full Album Review: Scaled and Icy

American musical duo twenty one pilots consisting of lead vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, released their sixth studio album, Scaled and Icy this past Friday. Sitting at thirty eight minutes, Scaled and Icy is a minute shorter and has no features compared to the last album I reviewed.

The Contrast: Trench vs. Scaled and Icy

Scaled and Icy has a more shiny and optimistic disposition in the twenty one pilots discography especially compared to the duos darker last studio album Trench; it would even be fair to say the difference between Trench and Scaled and Icy is like that of day and night. Where Trench had brooding oblique undertones and an mysterious allure to it, Scaled and Icy starts off with an upbeat tempo one can only assume is shrouded in jovial bliss. Scaled and Icy plays overall as a spirited upbeat album with unlimited optimism and hope for the future, a total and complete change in direction and perspective from the duo’s two last albums. The colors on the album cover are also brighter than usual for the duo and if you ask vocalist Tyler Joseph he’ll tell you that's on purpose. “That colour is supposed to represent the unleashing of an imagination”. Furthermore when asked about the album’s title, Tyler reveled that its a “positive spin” on the negative “scaled back” and “isolated” feelings associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this, Scaled and Icy plays as an anagram to “Clancy is dead”, the Clancy in question being the character from the previous album Trench that played a key part in that albums’ story and concept.

Album Cover for “Scaled and Icy”

Good Day * Choker

The first song on the album Good Day, starts off with a twenty second interlude that signifies that the duo is moving away from the brooding undertones that hallmarked the Trench album and then moves into a joyous melody as Tyler sings of losing his job and his homie suing him in unique twenty one pilots fashion. The second track, Choker, featured also as the second single off the album and has Tyler expressing his inability to be there for those he cares about due to “choking” from his fears.

Shy Away * The Outside

The third track on the album Shy Away, which also featured as the lead single of the album was born out of a conversation Tyler had with his younger brother where he encouraged his sibling to pursue his dreams in the music industry. The song is an uplifting, pick-me-up song with an upbeat tempo that can spur anyone into action. The fourth track on the album, “The Outside” has the sound and feel of every song on Trench, as if its one of the few songs that didn’t make the cut for the album.

Saturday * Never Take It

Saturday is the third single off the track and also the fifth song in the listing. Saturday follows in lieu with the upbeat tempo that encapsulates Scaled and Icy and also marks Tyler’s first collab with American record producer and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Greg Kurstin. Saturday in essence is a crisp refreshing dance-pop song, and you can hear Kurstin’s influence all over the track. Never Take It the sixth track takes on a similar premise as an older song of twenty one pilots, “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV” and serves as a sort of reminder to not simply believe what you are told without doing your own research.

Mulberry Street * Formidable

Mulberry Street the seventh track, finally slows down the pace but keeps the up-tempo pop-sound and sounds like a song that transports you back to the sound and feel of the earlier albums of the twenty one pilots discography. Formidable plays as a humbling song that has a Californian-pop vibe to it. In the track, Tyler shares his appreciation for Josh Dun, the other part of twenty one pilots, saying Josh is “Formidable to him” and he will “follow [him]”. Formidable was originally written on a ukulele but later changed to a acoustic guitar after studio recording.

Bounce Man * No Chances * Redecorate

Bounce Man is the ninth track and features Tyler’s younger brother, Jay who is also featured in ‘Never Take it” and the tenth track “No Chances” where Tyler gathered a bunch of his friends to record the chorus featured in the songs. “No Chances” seemingly borrows from the mysterious allure and feel of the Trench album. Where it is debatable if “No Chances” borrows the eleventh and final track on Scaled and Icy, “Redecorate”, steals and amplifies the tone and message, tone and overall flow that is witnessed from Trench. “Redecorate” follows three people and the thoughts going through their heads before they die. It features heavy use of synthesizers and a booming bass with distorted vocals.

The Bottom Line

Scaled and Icy is a fantastic album with a great cast of producers, instrumentalist and vocal assists despite the difficulty of coordinating all parts through this time in the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, most of the album was largely produced by Tyler Joseph in his home studio. While the album touts a optimistic and jovial tone for the first half, the tones and messages especially in the last two songs on the album greatly contradict everything the listener was sold in on in the first half as the album progressively grows darker and reaches back into the sound that made Trench the great album it is.

As creators looking to make the next best thing, we always have that enduring cloud over us to create something unlike our last project. But sometimes the ideas that influenced that last project seep into our new project and the new project becomes either a victim of recycled ideas or a receptacle that makes old ideas new again. From that standpoint it would seem that the ideas of Trench seeped in and influenced Scaled and Icy directly. Almost in a sense that you could say that Clancy is not in fact dead, but he is instead lingering around in the head of Tyler Joseph.

Christian’s Album Review: 4.0/5.0

Christian’s Top 3 Songs:

  1. Redecorate
  2. Shy Away
  3. The Outside

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Christian Evans

Christian Evans

Brooklyn born & Houston raised with a unique perspective on life. Album Reviews and other things I love to write about in my spare time Twitter/@_ChristianSays_