Twenty One Pilots get conceptual on the reggae-infused "Nico And The Niners."

What makes a standout single in 2018? What makes an album stand-out amidst the hundreds that drop each and every week? Sure, a banging promotion cycle and interstellar budget surely helps. But it's not enough. There's some subtle, ineffable quality burning in the heart of Pop Music that crosses over to become truly relevant.



Twenty One Pilots are well-known for crafting fun, radio-friendly Pop gems. They've been doing it for years and they're great at it. Sometimes, their work can be vaguely interchangeable with other indie pop artists out there, however. They've been growing as legitimate artists with something to say in recent years.

That subtle quality is swimming into sharp focus on "Nico And The Niners," one of two new singles released to announce their upcoming new concept album. They've not come out and say what that concept is yet, however, but it seems to be some kind of dystopian A Handmaid's Tale-style theocracy.

We draw these conclusions from some running themes with the other new single "Jumpsuit."  He speaks-sings "“I’m heavy, my jumpsuit is on steady / I’m lighter when I’m lower, I’m higher when I’m heavy / I’m so high, my jumpsuit takes me so high / I’m flying from a fire, from Nico and the Niners.

Earlier he sings about a class of bishops who are blind to the color yellow, and of a country named Dema. So who are these bishops? And who are Nico And The Niners? And what is Dema? We don't really know, but our anticipation for the new Twenty One Pilots album just got as high as a soaring jumpsuit.

The dub/reggae-influenced production has us just as worked up, if not more so. Some of Twenty One Pilots' earlier material could be kind of brittle and cuttingly sharp, It might be good for winning the radio's loudness wars or for blaring out of small smartphone speakers, but goodness can it get fatiguing at times. They've been heading in that direction for a minute, as you can hear on Blurryface tracks like "Stressed Out," and "Ride."

From the preliminary listens of "Nico And The Niners," it seems that Twenty One Pilots might actually out-Gorillaz the Gorillaz this summer. We Are: The Guard are here for it. So get out your notebooks, start preparing your flowcharts, and start coming up with your own fan theories. You can check your notes when Trench comes out on October 5 via Warner Music UK.


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.