- By Sam Reynolds -
Kyle Morton's songs have a signature grandiosity. The singer tells stories that grapple with terrifying existential truths with an unwavering sincerity. The albums of Typhoon - Morton's band hailing from Portland, Oregon - follow suit. Their last album, 2013's White Lighter, addressed ideas of aging and passing the world to the next generation with a realistic sobriety, yet rays of hope shown through in each song's warm instrumentals
But a lot happens in five years. Now, Morton and Typhoon have returned with a new body of work titled Offerings: the band's most ambitious effort yet. The album still features the same towering ideas that have always marked Typhoon's work. However, there are no traces of their signature youthful charm or friendly soundscapes. Instead, Typhoon's punk and alternative styles amp up the excitement and turn to a much darker, hollowed approach.
Offerings is a bold concept album that tells the story of an old man's quickly fading memory as he suffers on his deathbed.
It is a dense album that goes to painstaking lengths to depict the terrible process of losing the life experiences that define a person's identity. Typhoon uses storytelling tactics that range from simple poetry to impressive metaphors. And even though the story seems simple, the album's scope is immense: The Bible, Socrates, the films of Italian director Federico Fellini, Greek mythology and even Russian literature all manage to find their way in. But Morton uses these references as tools to deepen the experience rather than distract from it. In fact, Morton's lyrics are so impressively researched that the album often feels like a novel. Read the lyrics repeatedly to appreciate every tiny detail that they deserve.
Offerings succeeds because it does not limit its story to a single perspective.
The haunted, acoustic strummings of "Algernon" depicts a bleak conversation between the man and his forgotten wife, told in a straightforward narrative. Remember depicts the man giving in to his pain. As he and his wife decide to burn and destroy his memories as if they were old furniture. "Mansion" is a minute long fragment of a childhood moment that surfaces unexpectedly. "Darker" depicts a disturbing seizure. And the 12 minute closing song "Sleep" acts as a farewell lullaby that covers the man's final journey into the afterlife. This all sounds rather bleak, and make no mistake, it often is. But Typhoon approaches every song with empathy and admiration for human life. It makes Offerings feel both mournful and celebratory.
Morton and his band use the sounds at their disposal to represent different parts of the mind breaking. Through unexpected orchestral burst that represents a flood of memories, or a warm, familiar choir to imagine some sort of heaven, Typhoon's musicianship only adds to the story. Morton's vocals can be urgent and panicked at one moment, while peaceful and at ease the next.
Every idea is fully explored, even if topics such as death and afterlife inevitably stretch beyond Morton's reach.
Offerings is one of the rare cases of musical ambition that's execution matches the initial idea. The result is a fascinating and memorable record that feels out of place in an age of instant gratification.