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Shuffle Belt: twenty|one|pilots "blurryface"

The major label sophomore effort for the Columbus, OH duo has a lot of hype behind it. Does it live up to the billing?

twenty|one|pilots have a loyal following, but will Kaleb and James join the Clique?
twenty|one|pilots have a loyal following, but will Kaleb and James join the Clique?
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Shuffle Belt is the newest series from your favorite MAC lovers here at Hustle Belt. James H. Jimenez and Kaleb Carter will deliver a weekly (or bi-weekly, don't pressure us) series of reviews covering bands from around the Rust Belt and wherever MAC teams are located. This week's review? twenty|one|pilot's blurryface.


It took twenty|one|pilots only four years of independently touring to burst onto the scene with their major label debut Vessel. The Fueled By Ramen signees quickly found a following thanks to shrewd and effective use of social media and vivacious live performances. Their sophomore effort, blurryface, has been one of the most anticipated albums on the alternative rock scene since the first single, "Fairly Local," was released in March

Shortly before releasing the album (which came unexpectedly just after midnight on Monday morning, a day early,) frontman Tyler Joseph threw out this series of tweets:

Now, in the aftermath of its release, it's time to lay down the verdict.


The Good:

"Tear In My Heart"

Kaleb: TEAR IN MY HEART. TEAR IN MY HEART. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS SONG. SHE'S THE TEAR IN MY HEART, TAKE ME HIGHER, THAN I'VE EVER BEEN. This song is such a solid example of how [Tyler] Joseph and [Josh] Dun are able to seamlessly transition throughout this record when it comes to speed and pace. No song sounds the same all the way through. And this song is so dang ORIGINAL. So much more original than the Ohio football offensive playbook. Wonderful. And it's about his wife, apparently. (Double points.)

James: Personally, my favorite lyric  is "She's the tear in my heart/She's a carver/She's the butcher with a smile/cuts me farther than I've ever been." (Also, "my taste in music is your face" has to be the most adorably awkward pick-up line ever conceived. I might have used it already...)

"Stressed Out"

Kaleb: I love LOveLOVE "Stressed Out" so much. It's such a chill track and is such nonsense lyrically if you don't peer in a little harder to hear Tyler Joseph lament the difficulties that come with adult life. I've had the chorus stuck in my head since I heard this. (Wish we could turn back time to the good old days/When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out/ x2)

James: You are speaking the gospel truth, Kaleb.  From an album flow standpoint, "Stressed Out" is a release of tension from "Heavydirtysoul" that strikes a chord right in the feels. The chorus is pretty damn catchy, on top of being nearly unforgettable, and the dialogue regarding the struggles of adapting to life's changes are extremely relatable. (A lyric to look out for is "it would remind us of when nothing really mattered/Out of student loans and treehouse homes we all would take the latter.") The track sounds hard and soft at the same time, and the video is funny, sentimental, and dark all at once.

"Fairly Local"

Kaleb: This track manages to sound incredible large. Like...Richard Ash large. It looms and pounds the back of your ear drums as the echo of the synths bounces back into your brain. In the bridge, he claims, "Yo, this song will never be on the radio" I'm not so positive about that.

James: "Fairly Local" was the first single to be released back in March, so I was fairly surprised to find it fourth in the rotation of the album, but it makes sense from a thematic standpoint, as it is a flow change from the boogie-worthy "Ride." There are so many sounds going on, and yet, you cannot help but feel like you understand the song on a deeper level. The bass and synth battle in the background, causing loud booms and release of tension whilst Tyler Joseph struggles with being well-known, yet not recognizable; wanting the fame without giving up the values that raised him. I have a soft spot for this track, but I feel like it's potential effect was diffused by pushing it so far down the list of tracks. It should have taken "Stressed Out"'s place at #2 behind "Heavydirtysoul."

"My taste in music is your face" has to be the most adorably awkward pick-up line ever conceived. I might have used it already...


The Bad:

"The Judge"

Kaleb: With "The Judge," there's really nothing to it. It sounds uninspired compared to the first half. For instance: "I don't know if this song/Is a surrender or a revel/I don't know if this one/Is about me or the devil."

^ Hell man, idk.

James: Having been familiar with the band for a while, "The Judge" is a throwback to twenty one pilots from 2009, their debut album. Same musical and lyrical styling and all. blurryface seems to be an amalgamation of all their albums, and "The Judge" is representative of that. Which also reminds me that early twenty one pilots sounds like Panic! At The Disco. All that being said, it's just... not in tune with the rest of the album really. Five minutes of filler, really.

"Message Man"

Kaleb: "Message Man" is such an unconventional track...not sure how to feel about it. I'll agree with you that it's not a good song and move on.

James: Okay.


The Debatable:


Kaleb: "Doubt" sounds like it could be a demo version of a song that could potentially be okay. Nothing special. Reminds me of some mid-2000's auto-tuned hip-hop that was good for some car riding music and not much else.

James: Oh hey now, I actually liked "Doubt," thank you very much, mister. It could be perhaps because I have a guilty pleasure for mid-2000's auto-tuned hip-hop. But there is also a purpose to the song in terms of the album experience. This song signifies that Tyler is struggling with the "blurryface" identity that he tries to establish with tracks such as "Fairly Local," and "Stressed Out." He even says in the song he is "shaking hands with the dark thoughts", and you have to admit, that chorus is the epitome of emo rage. Very MCR-ish. And ah luh me some Gerard Way, bruh.


In the bridge, [Joseph] claims, "Yo, this song will never be on the radio." I'm not so positive about that.


Kaleb: Tyler Joseph feels things. I was able to discern that. Were you? Also, thanks to James, I have a much better understanding of the dynamic of this band and its past music in relation to this record. And I kind of have a crush on Joseph and Dun now, so there's that. Going back and watching the music videos, I thought it was extremely interesting that "blurryface" is in plain view in the black paint aesthetic that Joseph has going on. Without understanding the blurryface character at least someone, you might just look right past this detail. Finally, the album itself was pretty top-heavy, and was strong going into its midpoint. Most of the songs on the front end are ear worms. After that, it seemed to lose direction until the last few songs, none of which were that great, but at least explored the dark character that simmered beneath the surface. If I had to give the album as a whole a rating, I'd say a solid seven would do.

James: Oh man, was it ever a fun time introducing Kaleb to twenty|one|pilots. Ya'll should have seen the parts of our conversation that didn't make it onto this week's article. Back to the album: blurryface shows a maturation on the sounds they became famous for in Vessel. Tyler Joseph is just as masterful as ever in creating music that simultaneously is dark and light, like taking out diary pages and setting it to music. His brutally honest self-portrayal and struggles give the music here authenticity. Tyler and his bandmate Josh Dun take more risks in this album than I anticipated they would, and it works. Each song feels original and the fact that they can dive around so many different types of song and still feel cohesive in each style shows a mastery that is extremely hard to duplicate and marks twenty|one|pilots as a group to look out for.

That being said, Kaleb is correct in that it is very top heavy. "Fairly Local," "Stressed Out," "Ride," "Lane Boy," and "Tear In My Heart" all came out before the album and are all contained within the first six tracks, so we already have a feel for those. The rest of the songs are extreme risks, and although they did help to continue the "blurryface" identity,  only "Not Today" and "heavydirtysoul" felt like they belonged on the album (not to insinuate the others are bad; all of them are well-composed.) And "Goner," the ending track, would have been better if they would have included more of the original version in its composition, though those last thirty seconds will give you goosebumps for sure. I give the album an 8 out of 10.


Favorite tracks:




Tell us what you think of this album! Any singles stick out to you? Have you ever seen twenty|one|pilots live? Know anyone with a cool story about them that you can talk about? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. If you have any bands that maybe you've heard around your MAC school of allegiance, feel free to tell us about them and maybe we'll review them. Peace.

Next week: James and Kaleb review Joe Hertler and the Rainbow SeekersTerra Incognita.

Shuffle Belt