Portland, Ore. collective Typhoon is not too far from Polyphonic Spree-levels of orchestrated choir-pop. The 11-piece band had an underground hit with “The Honest Truth” off its 2011 EP A New Kind of House, but singer Kyle Morton thought the band’s second full-length album, White Lighter, might be the last thing they ever made.
As a child, Morton suffered through multiple organ failures (including a kidney transplant), caused by a serious case of Lyme disease. And in letters to fans leading up to the album announcement, he openly recalled those near-fatal experiences and lessons learned from them, all of which influenced White Lighter.
Recorded on the sprawling Pendarvis Farm, about half an hour outside the band’s hometown, White Lighter takes the utopian aesthetic of its locale and translates it into music. The band’s comparatively enormous size—marked by a horn section, string section and eclectic percussion—naturally exudes a boisterous optimism and familial charm. However, that same positive music also seems to mask the dystopian themes of the record.
Death is all over White Lighter. Lyrics like, “Soon enough you’ll be dancing at my funeral” slide right into the first single, ominously titled “Dreams of Cannibalism.” And in “Young Fathers,” which is quite possibly the best song on the album, Morton sings with a heightened urgency, “I was born in September but if I die today, you know I won’t regret you. Some things I can’t explain.”
It’s difficult to disassociate Morton’s past from the product that details it. In fact, knowing his story actually helps frame the album’s seemingly dichotomous words and sounds. And it’s that combination that makes White Lighter so entrancing, serving as both warning and celebration of mortality.