White Lighter by Typhoon
Do you like the lush sound of an orchestra, complete with horns, stringed instruments, and percussion and/or the inherent pain and suffering heard in every word Bright Eyes ever sang? Then you will like Typhoon. No, Conor Oberst is not in the band, but Typhoon’s lead singer, Kyle Morton, sings quite like him, with an amazing amount of emotion dripping off of every syllable.
Morton is one of 11 people in the band. Yes, eleven. There are three horns, and two each of guitars, violins, and drummers. I’ve seen the band cram onto a too-small stage while managing to find room for two full drum kits (usually front and center) as well as the rest of the amps — let alone 11 people. It’s quite a feat.
The benefits of touring with a band this size are obvious. Too often you hear these amazingly rich albums with horns and strings, but then the live experience is significantly diminished by either a) the strings and horns are recorded and played back via the push of a button, or b) the arrangements are modified significantly to accommodate a smaller touring band. Sometimes these new arrangements are quite good, and it’s nice to hear songs reimagined for the live stage, but Typhoon brings the real deal. What you hear on the album is faithfully restored on stage, with a mixed group of eleven late-20s/early-30s happy hipsters from Portland, bouncing and giddily playing to their hearts content.
I define their music as a derivative of “Americana,” a la Head and The Heart, or the overplayed hand-claps of The Lumineers or Of Monsters and Men. But where those bands stick to the road previously traveled, Typhoon chart their own course. These songs are complicated, with orchestration that would amaze the squarest of symphony goers. And Morton’s lyrics of heartache and the pain of everyday life, sung with the conviction of apparent autobiography, are beautifully touching. There are similarities in the notes to bands like The Decemberists (also from Portland) — not in subject matter or voice, but in rich layers of sound and an educated definition of what makes for a good composition.
This album, White Lighter, is the band’s fourth full-length. I discovered their 2010 album too late to put it on the Calendar that year (it would definitely have been on there), but their 2011 EP A New Kind of House made the list in 2011, at #23. If Morton’s voice doesn’t immediately put you off, I believe there’s something in this album for everyone. Give it a listen, buy it, and then wear out the grooves in the record, as I’m sure I will be doing over the next decade or so.
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13. The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
14. The Next Day by David Bowie
15. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen
17. Lanters by Son Lux
18. Howlin’ by Jagwar Ma
19. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz
20. Dream Cave by Cloud Control
21. Mole City by Quasi
22. Phantogram by Phantogram
23. Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface
24. Uncanney Valley by The Dismemberment Plan
25. Event II by Deltron 3030
26. Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots
27. Us Alone by Hayden
28. Pure Heroine by Lorde
29. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife
30. False Idols by Tricky
31. Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart