Thursday, August 22, 2013

Typhoon Sparks A White Lighter

If you ask anyone from Portland, they might hear something bittersweet in Typhoon's new album White Lighter. If this album makes anything clear, it's that the band isn't a local-only treasure anymore.

Sure, some might argue that the 11-piece band has always been big, but not like this. White Lighter is the first album that feels almost too big to be played at intimate house shows or anchor pub crawls.

Nowadays, Typhoon needs a venue to match the orchestra-sized sound as it slides back and forth between pop and rock, rock and folk, folk and orchestra, orchestra and alternative, and back again. Even more remarkable, Typhoon doesn't do this across the album. They do it inside each song.

The power of White Lighter is mighty. The urgency is near punk. 

A few months ago, Roll Call Records put out Dreams Of Cannibalism in advance of what the label promised would be the biggest album in the band's emergent career. There is some truth to it. The track immediately earned some attention, even if it was split across among different formats and platforms.

One of my favorite renditions was the video shot by Matthew Thomas Ross. As one of the creative minds behind neighborhood films, he cut to the very heart of the track as one generation blames its ills on the preceding generation. And, in focusing on this thread, he brings the haunting lyrics to life.

What makes this song stand out is how it cuts down a common misconception that every generation deserves to be condemned for not being perfect. Whereas most musicians are content to roll with this notion, Typhoon breaks from the pack in highlighting a different perspective.

They submit a plea of ignorance, recognizing that more people follow lock step in whatever they are taught. But at the same time, they don't necessarily exonerate any evil deeds. The pain of it still provides a warning. Kyle Morton is an amazingly emotive and contemplative frontman.

While all that might sound almost too heady or heavy, Ross adds in a colorful spot of satirical irony at the end. He isn't the only one to add it. Typhoon often spreads in some satirical moments in its music.

The balance of the album is an experimental bit of tight noise. 

With 12 full tracks and an 11-second prelude, it's easy to get lost inside White Lighter. Artificial Light carries another part of the album's theme that attempts to weigh in on what we think versus what we do, a near parable that talks about how the flame we're taught to chase could be a fake.

Young Fathers follows, a dreary but heartfelt track about the promise of youth and heartbreak of age. The epic sentiment can found in the lyrics, with Morton singing "When you're young, you have, you had your whole life before you. Everyone will adore you. You'll grow up to be an astronaut. Then you weren't."

There are other great tracks, but perhaps none are as perfect as Young Fathers. Other standouts include the loss inside Morton's Fork, the somberness of Possible Dreams, and the emotive edge of Post Script. All three tracks, much like the other three highlighted, touch upon on how fleeting life can be.

Perhaps what makes this theme so significant is that it chose Morton more than he chose the theme. The urgency of it stems from a brush with death caused by something as random as a bug bite. Morton nearly died after his organs started to fail. His life was spared with the help of modern medicine and the donation of a kidney from his father.

"When we started working on White Lighter, I had reason to believe it would be the last thing I ever did," said Morton. "It is now six months since we finished. I'm still here and there's still work to be done."

White Lighter By Typhoon Sweeps 8.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

While some tracks get lost in the layered instrumentals, White Lighter is easily the band's finest work. Morton has outdone himself as a prolific songwriter, elevating the recording project he and Devin Gallagher started in college. Nothing beats knowing there is more to come.

White Lighter by Typhoon can be found on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or order the vinyl edition from Barnes & Noble. Typhoon will begin touring to promote the album in September. The first two shows will be held in their hometown of Portland and followed with performances in nearby Vancouver and Seattle. For details, find Typhoon on Facebook.
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