“I wanted to escape a little bit and provide people with that opportunity to escape, too,” twenty one pilots’ Tyler Joseph told Apple Music in the lead-up to his duo’s sixth LP, Scaled and Icy. Written and recorded during quarantine, in Joseph’s Ohio basement, the album was a decidedly upbeat response to the challenges of pandemic living, a set of bright, genre-neutral pop tunes that were meant to lift us up. “The idea of adding to the pressure of what's going on in our world,” he said, “it didn't feel right.” After months of struggle, to be hopeful can sound and feel like an act of defiance—the kind you’d expect from an artist like Joseph. But take a look around the alt space in 2021 and you’ll find a similar energy, whether it’s welcome statements from some of its biggest names (Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, Billie Eilish) or a growing resurgence of guitar-born ferocity (Måneskin, WILLOW).

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