Twenty One Pilots

The seventh studio album from Twenty One Pilots, called Clancy, brings closure to the near decade-long conceptual series that began with Trench. In many ways, Twenty One Pilots are challenging their audience to go on this ride with them as they navigate through the waters of rap, alternative, punk, and indie rock, while still looking for new and innovative ways to express the right emotions in their music. Clancy is the character that the band first introduced in Trench, and this record of the same name pulls out some additional thematic elements to bring rich context to the story. After some hard to hear radio chatter on the beginning of the opener, “Overcompensate,” a voice comes on to set the tone by stating emphatically, “Welcome back to Trench.” By taking a brief detour to where they’ve been, while still trying to advance the music forward in their repertoire, Twenty One Pilots have crafted an album worthy of multiple repeat spins and reward listeners willing to take deep dive into the world of Clancy.

After the brilliant opening track/lead single, the subsequent single of “Next Semester” follows with a frenetic drumbeat from Josh Dun, while lead vocalist Tyler Joseph croons over the mix to bring some experimental pop into the fold. The dreamy acoustic guitar outro in the song is a welcome departure from what the band has attempted to date, and yet it still feels authentic to the band. “Backslide” is largely a hip-hop song that is rooted in the nostalgia of what Twenty One Pilots accomplished on Trench, while the production from longtime collaborator, Paul Meany, accelerates the artistic growth from the band.

The steady pick-me-up bounce found on “Midwest Indigo” is sure to be a crowd favorite on the Clancy arena tour, while the brooding “Routines in the Night” is clouded in mystery, much like its intentions. Twenty One Pilots have never been strangers to the darkest of thoughts, and this song sounds like the logical progression from their standout single “Heathens.” The bombastic pop of “Vignette” is filled with sweeping orchestral parts that lend itself well to the heavy synth breakdowns in the song, while “The Craving (Jenna’s version)” was a curious choice for a fourth single since it seems a bit out of place in the overall sequencing of Clancy. The largely acoustic ballad features the refrain of, “Say enough, say enough / Did I let her know, let her know? / If I found my body in chains / I’d lay down and wait / And hope she looks for me,” and puts the spotlight on the vulnerability of the Clancy character. It may have made more sense towards the end of the tracklisting, or even as the album closer, if they chose to go out on a somber tone.

Things pick back up on “Lavish” as Tyler Joseph softly croons, “Welcome to the new way of livin’ / It’s just the beginning of lavish.” The song plays out a bit like a commercial jingle in its memorable chorus, while the rapping in the verses makes it firmly implanted in Twenty One Pilots lore. The heavy bass line in “Navigating,” mixed with great guitar riffing, makes for one of the heaviest songs that the band have attempted to date, and they largely pull it off with grace and poise. “Snap Back” features a unique blend of dreamscape pop paired with heavy hip-hop elements to make for a really creative listening experience. “Oldies Station” features a clever pre-chorus of, “Fear of the past and (Relative pain) / Future’s comin’ fast, you’ve got (Nothin’ in the tank) / In a season of purging things you used to love / Everything must go,” since a lot of this LP is about looking back, while still embracing the uncertain path ahead of us.

The closing one-two punch of the bouncy “At the Risk of Feeling Dumb” has a great, gradual crescendo towards the tail end of the track, plus the sprawling “Paladin Strait” is an excellent way of making a memorable statement. The closing lines sung over an acoustic guitar of, “On the ground are Banditos / Fighting while I find Nico / Even though I’m past the point of no return / Climb the top of the tower / “Show yourself,” I yell louder / Even though I’m past the point of no ret— / So few, so proud, so emotional…Hello, Clancy” finds the band revisiting the ground already covered in Trench, while still explaining the conclusion in a different way. It’s a unique way of paying homage to their past work, while still having overarching storytelling that prog-bands like Coheed & Cambria and The Mars Volta would be fond of. While Clancy may not be my favorite Twenty One Pilots album, it’s a record that I plan to explore the depths and limits of for further inspiration in my own life. And maybe, just maybe, that was the point all along.