Typhoon’s excellent 2013 record White Lighter was a mostly folk affair. There were hints here and there of a breakout from that classification, but on their latest record, Offerings, the Portland, Oregon-based band shed all attempts at being pigeon-holed. The result is a truly epic record that is full of quiet, intimate moments as well as loud, triumphant ones. And in-between, a raw emotion explodes. It is a concept record, following a man who is losing his memories. Lead singer and songwriter Kyle Morton wanted to create something that asked, “What does a person become if they don’t know where they came from? What is the essential quality of the person if you strip away all memory?” Right from its spoken-word, building intro, “Wake”, Offerings captivates immediately and draws you inside the mind of the protagonist.
Many of the tracks on Offerings are big, bold, and orchestral in nature. The second song, “Rorschach”, in particular, fits the bill, but it also features another of the record’s distinctive qualities. A grittiness reverberates across the record, right down from Morton’s vocals to the distortion-filled guitars. Another theme is there’s a constant layer of ambient noise. The intro to “Empiricist” is just that, leading into another immense number, which itself fades into the background. It’s a heavy track, and I won’t dive too much into the lyrical content, as it is incredibly moving in context, as is the entire record.
“Unusual” is a standout track with a hypnotic guitar part, which about halfway takes a sinister turn into a huge wall of sound before returning to just vocals and fading again into the ambience. It’s also a great example of the urgency in the lyrics throughout Offerings. For each big song like that, however, there are “Algernon” and “Beachtowel”, which feature an intimacy and reality that some of the more expansive tunes do not reach. They’re delivered in stunning fashion, highlighted by the small layer of lush strings that glide under Morton’s voice. Typhoon also push the boundary between those quiet songs and the loud ones, leaving the listener completely unprepared for these shifts. The result is pretty awesome, such as on the perfectly executed “Remember”. Starting out soft, it swiftly dives into a track that gets into some alt-pop territory.
Speaking of big shifts, “Coverings” features a different lead vocalist, Shannon Steele, whose lush vocals along with the perfectly executed guitar parts and strings create an absolutely dreamy quality. As the album reaches its latter stages, “Darker” and “Adriadne” add an edge in the way of distortion. “Sleep” ends the record as a microcosm of the whole thing. It’s quiet, it builds, it vanishes into the background before it comes in at full force. It’s the perfect epic to complete an epic record.
Offerings thrives in the loud, it stuns in the quiet, and it lives beautifully in between. It asks a question of who we are without the memories that define us. It is relevant to our times, and the current political climate as well. From the ever-present ambience to the immense guitar work to the perfect execution of strings to the flooring harmonies to its stirring lyricism, this is an album that should stand out. It’s also one that will define Typhoon. In a past review, I compared them to Lord Huron and The Head & The Heart, two bands in a very crowded, similar indie-folk scene. With Offerings, they’ve made an exclamation that they no longer occupy the same space as these bands. Instead, they stand alone, and with what may end up being one of the first Album of the Year contenders of 2018.
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