For those of you familiar with my show, you know that I love Typhoon. The band, which consists of eleven members, is led by Kyle Morton, who provides lead vocals and guitar with support from two violins, two trumpets, two drums, another guitar, a bass guitar, horns, and separate percussionist-ukulele player, all of whom sing backup. Their elaborate sound is so brilliantly layered and finely tuned that it isn’t just a wall of notes, but rather a beautifully crafted melody more complex than our ears have generally grown accustomed to.
That’s just one of the many things which make Typhoon great. Their latest album White Lighter was my pick for Album of the Year (2013): the whole record flows brilliantly despite its vicissitudes. However, my favorite aspect of Typhoon’s music is their lyrics. Lyrics are incredibly important to me, they dictate my attachment to a song or artist. I love a great beat, but lyrics really grab me and Typhoon has some of the best. Primarily written by Kyle, Typhoon’s lyrics are deeply personal, yet relatable. They’re deeply philosophical, yet simple. They’re occassionally dark but they always retain a sense of hope.
Knowing the band’s background helps you grasp the weight of Kyle’s words, since it’s nearly a miracle that he has anything to say at all. When Kyle was 12, “a tiny bug must have bit (his) leg” resulting in the illness he sings about in “The Lake”. His brutally honest words on the record as a whole continue to paint the picture of his sickly and bedridden childhood combating Lyme Disease and the havoc it wreaked on his immune system. The theme of mortality, family, and the human condition runs briskly through Typhoon’s discography, challenging the end head-on in “Possible Death”, lamenting romance in “Prosthetic Love”, and recognizing the power in the weaknesses that make us human in “100 Years”. Not even the album title can escape interpretation, as White Lighter refers to the fact that Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain (four of the famed “27 Club”) were all allegedly found dead with white lighters on them. And when the record was released last year, Kyle himself had just turned 27.
The show began with Wild Ones, the first of two openers, a weathered band from Portland, Oregon whose storied past of blown out eardrums and punctured lungs lead them to the growing success they so deserve. Their smooth and rock-pop-y vibes got the crowd amped up for the rest of the evening, even bringing Kyle Morton of Typhoon to groove along just behind us in the audience as lead vocalist Danielle Sullivan rang out “Golden Twin”.
Next up were Aly Spaltro and friends, better known as Lady Lamb The Beekeeper. When Aly first opens her mouth, her sound doesn’t quite match what you expect; this small and (at first glance) unassuming girl has the soul and talent of Joan Jett, her fingers flying fast along the fret board of her electric guitar as she sings and screams her raw emotion to the audience. One would never have guessed that this had been their first show in 3 months. Thankfully for us, Aly hadn’t just been relaxing (though much Nintendo was apparently involved), she’d also been writing. From the few songs she debuted that night, we should all get excited for her next record.
The best part of seeing Typhoon live is that their charisma, energy, and smooth collaboration all translate incredibly well in a concert setting. They began with their biggest hit prior to White Lighter, “The Honest Truth”, ranked third in Paste magazine’s list of the 50 best songs of 2011 and featured in the NBC series Chuck. Beginning with ultra-recognizable horns, the song quickly had the room dancing and singing along throughout evening. Following “The Honest Truth” came “Young Fathers”, which highlighted the band’s harmonies and tackled the fears of growing up and starting a family. Smiles abounded between the band and the audience despite the occasionally melancholic lyrics and the whole of the 9:30 Club erupted when Kyle had everyone sing the chorus to “Dreams of Cannibalism”. Their set finished after a crowd-pleasing cover of “Help From My Friends” that transitioned into “Artificial Light” before a three song encore of older hits.
Typhoon’s music evokes life in the pain and joy it describes in a near euphoric tone. To help me to summarize the album and the evening’s performance, I’ll look to Kurt Vonnegut: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”