The alternative rock duo Twenty One Pilots released their new and highly-anticipated album Trench earlier this fall on October 5th, 2018. Trench follows the band’s 2015 rise to fame album, the wildly popular 14-track Blurryface. After listening to it about a hundred times and also seeing some of it live (vis a vis their in-progress Bandito Tour), I’ve decided to rank the album’s songs from least favorite to most favorite.
Keep in mind this is my opinion and my take on it, although I will be providing reasons for each song’s place. Ranking these songs was extremely difficult. I don’t dislike any of the tracks on Trench.
Additionally, the inspiration for this article comes from the fantastic Sufjan Stevens song ranking from The Niche, which I recommend you check out if you have like, a lot of free time (or if you really like Sufjan Stevens). So without further ado, here is Trench, ranked.
#14. “The Hype”
You don’t get thick skin without getting burned. I actually like this song! Part of me feels bad for putting it at number fourteen. I mean, I got so excited hearing the ukulele! I find this track is, for lack of a better word, the most “common” song on the album.
When I listen to the album, I occasionally forget that this song is on it, which is why I have it at number fourteen. Also because it ended up there when I ordered the other songs. Sorry, guys.
“Jumpsuit” launched the album when the music video dropped back in July. It was shortly followed by “Nico and the Niners” and “Levitate.” Those three songs introduced Trench’s new, gritty sound. This track feels very different than anything I’d heard from them before, for which I appreciate its ingenuity. The refrain, I find particularly beautiful.
I’ve watched the music video for this a lot, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should. “Jumpsuit” welcomes us to take a peek into the lore of the album, which is a different story. It’s transition into “Levitate” is also something I think about at least once a day. But, I cannot say that it’s my favorite or one of my favorites.
#12. “Nico and the Niners”
The second song of the triplet that heralded Trench’s release, “Nico and the Niners” brings the phrase that fans of Twenty One Pilots (who call themselves “the clique”) have adopted as the Trench era’s motto: “East is up.” What does that mean? I don’t know, but it gets me going. I have always been somewhat fascinated by singer Tyler Joseph’s cadence.
The way he pronounces certain words feels like it contributes to the meaning of the words he’s written. I hear that in this track with the way he says the words I’m heavy, my jumpsuit is unsteady. I’m lighter when I’m lower, I’m higher when I’m heavy.
Aaaand the third song of the triplet. I’ll say it: this one slaps. When I think of bands that are “hard,” Twenty One Pilots doesn’t necessarily come to mind, but this one. Goes. Hard. That is all.
This song makes me feel like I’m alone in an abandoned parking garage at night but in the coolest way possible. I would also like to thank God and whoever else is out there for Tyler Joseph’s high singing voice.
And did anyone else just stop for a second after hearing the “Josh Dun” towards the end? I almost missed it at first, but when I heard it I got real excited. As I tend to do when Josh Dun is about to dish out some beats.
#9. “Cut My Lip”
We are now warming up to my more favorite songs on the album. I didn’t expect to like “Cut My Lip,” but the more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. Its reggae-like rhythms take me back to songs from Blurryface like “Polarize” and “The Judge.” If you can’t get down to the bridge of “Cut My Lip,” I don’t know if I can be friends with you.
Oh, how to describe “Smithereens?” The word cute comes to mind. Seriously, it’s so cute. Lots of fans have speculated this one’s about Joseph’s wife, Jenna (which, yeah, clearly), but it’s also about getting beat up for someone you love. Its upbeat drums and jazzy piano melody are a nice reprieve from some of the darker songs on the album.
I had never thought much about my relationship with my grandparents. We were close, but I didn’t know everything about them. They were there, always. Then, years ago, I lost my grandfather to cancer. Watching his deterioration was a long and painful experience. We would all be hopeful one day after receiving good news, only for it to disappear the next moment when something set the progress back a thousand steps. And then, about two months ago, I lost my grandmother.
We knew as soon as her diagnosis came in that it would only be a matter of time. Due to some health complications, her cancer was inoperable. I visited her about a month before her death and sat in shock and how much weight she had lost and how little she could do. But sometimes, I still forget that she isn’t around anymore. You’re a legend in my own mind. My middle name, my goodbye. Tyler Joseph processes a similar grief in “Legend.”
It is the first time he has spoken out about the loss of his grandfather in March of 2018. Joseph’s grandfather, Robert Joseph, is on the right side of the cover for the 2013 album, Vessel. “Legend” is about appreciating someone’s dedication to life, and the hope of one day reuniting. Joseph’s grandfather, Robert Joseph, is on the right side of the cover for the 2013 album, Vessel. “Legend” is about appreciating someone’s dedication to life, and the hope of one day reuniting.
#6. “Pet Cheetah”
“Pet Cheetah” is a song that helped Joseph overcome writer’s block, according to an interview with SiriusXM Hits 1. Its lyrics show this as Joseph raps about how he creates music through the metaphor of a pet cheetah: I’ve trained him to make me these beats. Now my pet cheetah’s quicker in the studio than on his feet.
The harder rap style of “Pet Cheetah” exists in a similar vein as “Levitate,” but I rank “Cheetah” higher because, well, I like it more. Seeing it live also heavily contributes to this one ranking high on the list. The chorus and outro of this song live were so hot that I’m pretty sure the girl next to me in the stands couldn’t take it, because she left after this song and didn’t come back. I think she had an emotional revelation or something.
#5. “My Blood”
In March of 2016, I was living in a state in the south called North Carolina. I had been out publicly for about a year or two, and it was then that the government of North Carolina passed a bill known as HB 2. This bill required people to use the public restroom (and changing facilities) that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificate.
HB 2 launched a heated debate about the state of rights of transgender people. It ignited movements all across the United States, both in proponent and in opposition of the bill. Before HB 2, trans people weren’t really talked about much. At least not that I noticed. But after that bill, trans rights became a constant battle.
A slogan came out of this fight. It was something people could say to their trans peers to let them know that they were safe and loved. Particularly, that they would not have to be afraid to use a restroom. “I’ll go with you,” was the slogan. I know the I’ll go with you in “My Blood” is not the same slogan, but simply a refrain. The words, though, haven’t lost their meaning to me. This song is warm; it’s orange-yellow, a hot drink on a cold day, a soft blanket.
My peers and I happen to be minorities in a country that has become more and more dangerous to navigate. We’re rebels. This song is for the rebels – for the kids that have to stick together and stand up for one another because no one else will. I think I’m going to be carrying this song with me for a long time, like a favorite jacket.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have placed this so high on my list if I had not seen it live. Or I don’t know, maybe I would have. There’s a reason the tour for Trench is named after this song. “Bandito” embodies all of what Trench is. To me, this song is about finding where you fit in, understanding your identity, and coming to terms with it.
This is the sound we make when in between two places. The line has become one of my favorites in this song (though I could probably write an entire article on this song alone). A lot of what we feel is the in-between. In between being alone and being smothered, in between child and adult, in between sadness and happiness, in between failure and success. But there’s a lot of freedom in those gray spaces.
According to a Reddit AMA, “Bandito” took the longest for Joseph to write. I think you can hear all of the hard work that went into this song. Something else I found interesting is that an entirely new concept was born in this song – Sahlo Folina. The phrase repeats itself in the song a couple of times. In the same AMA, Twenty One Pilots responded to questions about the meaning of the phrase with “it’s what we cry out in TRENCH when we are in need.” I am ever the lover of lore, and Trench is packed with it.
This song is extremely important. It might be one of the most important songs Twenty One Pilots has made. The simple explanation of its meaning is: stop glorifying suicide. But there’s a lot behind this song and its take on the romanticizing of suicide.
I remember when Netflix released 13 Reasons Why. I was shocked. People were all over that show, eating it up. They were all over the drama and the tension. It was such a phenomena, but its overall premise struck me as wrong. Suicide, as a form of revenge? No one seemed to care about the implications that idea had.
Suicide, particularly the suicides of celebrities, are glorified and romanticized to a frightening level. This song makes a number of strong points that haven’t really been talked about much. It opens place for more conversation to be had on the subject.
#2. “Leave the City”
Sometimes I find myself in a moment with a feeling so strong I have to stop myself and ask myself how I got there. Part of me needs to analyze it, to work through it so I can understand why I feel the way I feel. It’s November, and I’m standing in a massive stadium in Atlanta at midnight surrounded by thousands of people. The Bandito tour. I’m crying my eyes out. So much lead up to that moment, that just thinking about everything that happened makes it harder to hold back the tears.
My grandmother died in August. Shortly after, my parents separated. After years of compromising, my mother has finally agreed to help me start hormone therapy so I can continue my transition. It has been years since Vessel helped pull me out of the worst of my depression. During the show in DC the night before, Tyler Joseph had stood upon the crowd and hoisted a rainbow flag handed to him by someone in the pit.
“Leave the City” was one of the two closing songs of the show (the last song being “Trees,” as it always is). Trench hasn’t even been out a month, but the sold-out arena knows the words by heart. In time, I will leave the city. For now, I will stay alive. That’s when I start to cry. I chant every lyric. Saying it out loud somehow makes it real, gives it power. I will stay alive.
This is my favorite song on the album. Musically, everything about it is perfect. If I play this song while doing something else, I will restart it multiple times because I feel like I’m not listening to it hard enough.
I don’t have a story for this song, to be honest. Based on the lyrics, it’s about cleansing. Sometimes, you need something to keep you sane. And sometimes, those things can be dangerous. During another AMA, Joseph said that “trying to tackle what [he] was feeling in Chlorine was exhausting.” It’s understandable. The feelings communicated in this song are hard to put into words. Having a complex relationship with something you need to survive is just that – complex.
I love this song, and normally I wouldn’t have to justify that but because I’m the one who’s ordering them, I guess I have to? Every chorus, refrain, and verse hits me like fresh air. Something about it feels like breathing again, like I can feel it in my veins. The outro of this track is staggeringly beautiful. It’s one of the songs from Trench that I’ll be carrying with me for a while – because I need it.
The Bandito Tour recently wrapped up part one of its leg in the United States. After a short hiatus, Twenty One Pilots will kick off part two on December 7th in Perth, Australia. Trench is a good album. It’s a step up from Blurryface, with a unified, coherent sound and a world of interesting lore behind it. So much thought and work went into every sound and every line. If you haven’t listened to it, I urge you to give it a chance.