Twenty | One | Pilots fly high with genre-defying debut Vessel

Like a cocaine-fueled amalgamation of the Hoosiers and Linkin Park, with hints of Panic! At The Disco thrown in for good measure, Columbus (Ohio)’s Twenty | One | Pilots own flat-out the most infectious pop sound of the new year, and they’re ready to take your brain hostage at the slightest provocation. “”Holding On To You,” the album’s lead-off single, makes the mission clear from the start — they’re the kaleidoscope through which we should be viewing our music from here on, and the only rule is there are no rules.

Freewheeling between eighties-inspired glam-pop backdrops, hip-hop fueled fire-breathing and pop-punk inspired radio hooks from the Gods, this is music for those who want their music to continually twist the knife. “Migraine” opens with a burst of Imogen Heap-esque vocorder bliss, then bursts back and forth from a singable chorus to hip-hop verses like a feast for that space between your ears celebrating a tidal wave of creativity with hooks to spare. “Car Radio,” meanwhile, opens with a quiet instrumental interlude which is overlaid by a spoken-word burst of poetry bemoaning a life without music — the suffering of one who had his car radio stolen. “Sometimes quiet is violent,” he sings, before hinting that a life without music could be so terrifying death might actually be better than enduring the silence.

But the album’s biggest success is that lead single, and “Holding On To You” deserves to be the vehicle which introduces fans to this band certain to become their new favorite. The beginning is perfectly executed Wombats-inspired pop, building to rapped crescendos on the verses and a pop chorus Fall Out Boy would have killed for in their heyday. But it’s the breakdown three minutes in which burns the place down with a rapid-fire singalong sure to stick to your brain like glue:

Lean with it, rock with it
When we gonna stop with it?
Lyrics that mean nothing
We were gifted with thought
Is it time to move our feet
To an introspective beat
It ain’t the speakers that bump hard
It’s our hearts that make the beat

Doing what Alt-J did for fans of art rock last year, these two Midwestern purveyors of “schizoid pop” make mini-symphonies of genre blasting experimentation, making it fun to be a fan of pop music again. Come out of the closet, friends — if proof was needed, this is it, that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. When you’re flying with Twenty | One | Pilots, it’s all good!

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