Welcome to my first official column for Come Jam With Sam, my newest pursuit in op-ed writing and a fun space for me to share some of my favorite music. Each week, I’ll spotlight some new, or noteworthy artists and their contributions to the music world.
I’d like to christen this column by writing about a band that holds a special place in my heart. The band is called Typhoon and they are the best thing to come out of Portland, Oregon since Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s sketch comedy “Portlandia.”
I know, I know: that’s a lofty claim. Yet in the age of simple, interchangeable Top 40 hits, this band stands out. Rife with complicated and layered musical arrangements, Typhoon’s music is incredibly original. According to Typhoon’s Wikipedia page, their live performances typically involve 12 or more musicians at a time.
In “White Lighter,” their most recent album (and my favorite album of 2013), lead singer and head writer Kyle Morton’s vocals are joined with violins, percussion, horns, guitar, an accompanying choir and more. This makes for an unforgettable listening experience. Raw and orchestral, “White Lighter” is meant to be experienced with high-quality headphones and undivided attention. The album is a rollercoaster of emotion, featuring melancholy slow songs like “100 Years” and “The Lake” alongside upbeat tempos and hopeful lyrics in “Artificial Light” and “Common Sentiments.” Each track blends into the next and the album sounds almost completely seamless.
I loved Typhoon’s music long before I knew anything about the members of the band. I mean, what’s not to love? The full band, the haunting sound of the choir, the poetic and memorable lyrics. It all makes for a stellar compilation of songs. Yet hearing Morton’s personal story, and the backstory behind the words he so beautifully sings, enriches the experience that much more.
In an interview with The Daily Emerald, the online publication of the University of Oregon, Morton explained his struggle with chronic Lyme Disease since childhood. At age 16, the disease ravaged his kidneys and Morton received a full kidney transplant with his father as the donor. Morton called the situation “very messy,” yet it profoundly impacted his life. Many of his lyrics from “White Lighter” speak of his neverending struggles as a patient. One track in particular, called “Common Sentiments,” comes to mind:
“I’ve been patient for a long time now / I’ve been the patient for a long time now … and I will never be a younger man / oh, what am I waiting for? / A spell to be cast or for it to be broken! / At the very last, some white ghost from my past comes to split me wide open?”
Morton’s words encourage us to fight past the obstacles we face and seize the day. The only barriers between us and our dreams are our internalized fears and hesitations. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.