Words From A Waldman: Writer Dottie James Discusses Twenty One Pilots’ Major Label Debut ‘Vessel’

This is the first article that I’ve ever co-written in the motherland. Dottie James is an accomplished poet, writer, and sweetheart. Dottie and I both agree that “Vessel” is the best Twenty One Pilots record. Here is our 100% subjective ranking of each of Vessel’s (dirty) dozen tracks:

  1. “House of Gold” 

SW: Cheerio. 

DJ: Cheerio means bye. 

SW: What a way to start. 

DJ: ANYWAY, I personally don’t think that Twenty One Pilots is capable of writing a song that I won’t listen to. 

SW: Golden. 

DJ: Neat. 

SW: I’m in your house. It’s neat. 

DJ: I think that the music video for this song contributes a lot to how I feel about it. Twenty One Pilots is really good at using its videos to compliment its audio. 

SW: Golden. (pauses) I’m behaving like a little kid. 

  1. “Screen”

DJ: Speaking of children, “Screen” feels like the child of the album… Musically its very playful. 

SW: There’s a lot of repetition.

DJ: (blank stare)

SW: There’s a lot of repetition. 

DJ: (laughs)

SW: I’m standing in front of you. I’m standing in front of you. 

DJ: Oh my! You’ve done it again!

SW: My oh my. This song rules. It’s super simple. 

DJ: Golden. 

SW: Well played, Brit. 

DJ: I’m trying to be so cool. 

  1. “Semi-Automatic”

SW: Guns aren’t cool. Semi-Automatics aren’t cool. This song is cool. 

DJ: “Semi-Automatic” is a solid transitional track. 

SW: Do do do do do do. Do do do do do do. 

DJ: I kinda like that. 

SW: I’m never what I like, I’m double sided. 

DJ: I kinda like that too. 

SW: I’m glad that I never make you cry. 

  1. “The Run and Go” 

DJ: Scott, if you called me in the nighttime, then you’d make me cry. 

SW: Don’t wanna call you in the nighttime. 

DJ: Scott, please don’t hand me all of your trouble. 

SW: Don’t wanna hand you all my trouble. 

DJ: Then don’t! (pauses) I like the fact that this band handles mental health with an awareness of its reality. 

SW: Dottie, I concur. Also, I really think that Twenty One Pilots cares about its fans. 

DJ: This is an important track. 

SW: (nods in agreement)

  1. “Truce” 

DJ: No need to call a truce here: We both agree that this song is a solid and punchy closing track. 

SW: (nods in agreement)

  1. “Guns for Hands”

DT: Stop nodding. Let’s shake hands. 

SW: But I have guns for hands!

DT: Well I’m English and we don’t have guns here. 

SW: (sighs/almost dies) Well played, Brit. 

DT: Thank you. This song essentially could be seen as a mantra against self harm. 

SW: Twenty One Pilots manages to make such profoundly fun melodies combined with strong and sincere societal statements. Also, this was the very first TOP song that I heard, so it’s holstered to my heart. 

DJ: Let’s go outside and all join hands. 

  1. “Holding on to You” 

SW: And then I’ll be holding on to you. 

DJ: And then I’ll be holding on to you!!!!

SW: Stop shouting. You Brits are supposed to be timid. 

DJ: When we gonna stop with it?

SW: ANYWAY, Tyler raps incredibly quickly on this track. 

DJ: I’m open a moment and close when you show it. 

SW: (starts to cry) I’ve never been more impressed with you, Dottie. 

DJ: I have news for you: The amazing mountain imagery and strong alliteration in this song showcases Tyler’s brilliant lyrical proficiency. 

SW: Word. 

  1. “Trees”

DJ: Trees is a word. 

SW: Melancholic is a word. 

DJ: This song manages to set up the expectation that…

SW: (Dottie stays silent for twenty one minutes) I see what you did there. 

  1. “Fake You Out” 

DJ: Did I just (wait for it, wait for it) fake you out?

SW: Dottie, I’m so afraid of what you have to say. 

DJ: And silence gives me space. 

SW: Do you need some space?

DJ: Nah, I’m good, like this song. 

SW: Mind. Blown. 

DJ: Again, TOP send incredible messages to the world. 

SW: Our brains are sick but that’s okay. 

  1. “Migraine” 

DJ: Okay. Okay. Okay. What an opening line. 

SW: I’m glad that you’re not the only one that knows that. (whispers) I know that too. (pauses) I-I-I I’ve got a migraine. 

DJ: We’re almost done with this piece. We’ve made it this far, kid. 

SW: Yeah yeah yeah. 

DJ: For the record, I think that this song should’ve been number two on this list, but we compromised. 

  1. “Ode to Sleep” 

SW: For the record, I think that this song should’ve been number one on this list, but we compromised. 

DJ: Scott told me I was gone. Scott told me I was gone. 

SW: I hear some serious ELO vibes with this song and I really dig it. “Ode To Sleep” is my favorite TOP song ever. I love sleeping, but I would never do this track the disservice of dosing through it. 

DJ: I’ll stay awake ‘cause the dark’s not taking prisoners tonight!

SW: I’m sorry. 

  1. “Car Radio”

DJ: I’m sorry to report that we’re almost done. 

SW: Car. 

DJ: Radio. 

SW: Anthem. 

If you haven’t heard Vessel yet, run and go to this playlist of the album rearranged by Dottie and Scotty to fake you out. Then, (bare with me) listen to it on your car radio whilst driving to your house of gold in the album’s original track sequence (that sincerely will hold on to you; sincerely). Try not to drive into any trees or you may go through your (wind)screen, which could cause you to have a major migraine in your semi-automatic 2013 Chevy Impala. If you, in fact, have an accident that is similar to the aforementioned one, please please please make sure to call the proper authorities, and don’t pass out. Do not pass out. Do NOT pass out. Don’t do it. And definitely don’t start performing your own ode to sleep. NO ONE wants that. 

P.S. We’re not clever enough to include “Guns For Hands” above. Let’s call a truce.