The Oberlin Review

Typhoon’s Fourth Album Boasts Wrenching Narrative, Charged Politics

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“Listen. Of everything that you’re about to lose, this will be the most painful.”

This sentence is spoken with slight variations — not sung — exactly three times in eight-piece indie rock band Typhoon’s latest album, Offerings. The words bear the distinct voice of frontman Kyle Morton — tinged with desperation, approaching tears. It’s an appropriate affectation given the trauma of a severe teenage case of Lyme disease that led to multiple organ failures. Here, this history lends Morton a deft touch for handling the possibility of death with unique aromanticism. That sensibility is lucky for listeners; across the album’s nearly 70-minute sprawl, there is consolation in the quiet moments, when the swelling strings and aching chords melt away to the “irreducible certainty,” in Morton’s terms, of a fond memory.

Despite Offerings’ melancholy premise — a concept album told from the perspective of a man losing both his memory and his life — that certainty is Morton’s main concern. As the world wilfully forgets its history and every day seems to take us further into chaos, he asks, what remains when we strip everything away and let ourselves sit in this incomprehensible present?

In his ambitious search for the answer, Morton frames the Bannonite obsession with disorder as a modern-day sacrificial ritual wherein memory is annihilated on the altar of Trumpism — but to see the album as nothing more than that would be to miss half the point. Most lines in Offerings can be read with either a narrative or allegorical eye; through one lens, it is the tale of a man in a downward spiral, and through another, a call to memory before our humanity is lost. “This is the wine / Drink, untrouble your mind with it / Don’t you remember / When knowledge was tied to a consanguine kindness?” Morton sings on the love-minded “Beachtowel.” He’s referencing a tender moment in the protagonist’s past, sipping wine with a towel-wrapped partner while he ices her injured ankle, but he is also accusing the audience of excising compassion: “No, you cut it all out with the scalpels of doubt / You know this was your failure.” The use of this fictional memory encourages the listener to identify similar moments in their own past, seeking to undermine the deeply present reality of fear and anger. Ultimately, this is the album’s thesis, but without piecing together all those razor-sharp shards of commentary, you wouldn’t know it; it’s all nested in a story so masterfully told that it stands alone.

For an album often reduced to a swirl of fragmentary motifs, Offerings is reassuringly structural in its approach to the trials of its nameless protagonist. The run-time is split into three movements and one epilogue: “Floodplains,” in which he wakes without memory; “Flood,” in which his past starts leaking through; and “Reckoning,” in which it all comes crashing down, followed by “Afterparty,” a conclusion too pitch-perfect to spoil. Though it’s technically accurate to use the pronoun “he” here, the album actively plays with gender, letting the protagonist and his wife bleed together as the walls of their identities break down — a dynamic most prevalent in the string-heavy “Coverings,” where the crystal-clear vocals of backup singer and violinist Shannon Steele, who co-wrote the song, provide an alternate voice for our narrator; “Every part of you I feel in me,” she sings.

The album’s most accessible tracks are, unsurprisingly, its three singles, “Rorschach,” “Remember,” and “Darker,” all leaning heavily into Morton’s rock roots with surging guitar hooks and earworm lyrics. At the other end of the spectrum of bombast are three vulnerable acoustic tracks that eschew allegory in favor of unadulterated storytelling — “Algernon,” “Chiaroscuro,” and “Sleep.” Though they may be quieter than the rest, these songs pack even more of a punch thanks to Morton’s less-is-more lyrical philosophy, furthering the protagonist’s journey in startlingly moving ways.

The rest of the album — give or take “Mansion,” a short interlude vital to the narrative but musically inessential — is gorgeously orchestral, almost gothic in its obsession with interrogating and drowning the banal. Gone are the scrappy, horn-punctuated stylings of Typhoon’s past; in Offerings, strings, guitar, piano, and voice contribute to a constant tonal grace note that earns the terrifying heights of its most existential moments, epitomized in the cacophonous conclusion of its penultimate track, “Ariadne.”

That balance is reflected in the endlessly laudable lyrics, which somehow manage to avoid pretension despite a heavy helping of varyingly obscure references to film and literature that will have most listeners turning to Google every now and then. In conversations about the album, the most talked-about of these is “Asa nisi masa,” a nonsensical phrase introduced as a mnemonic device in Fellini’s linking the protagonist to his childhood. Fifty-five years later, it makes three major appearances in Offerings as a chanted chorus. This is music that rhymes “Parthenon” with “Algernon” and “chiaroscuro” with “absolute zero”; a literary achievement, to be sure, but one that may have trouble reaching much of its already too-small audience. For those with the time to pore over its stunning details, the album will become one of those rare pieces of entertainment to which one holds tight and never lets go.

Deserving of a stadium, Typhoon must settle instead for intimate clubs. But if the past decade’s nigh-monotone array of performatively brooding indie rock bands can be likened to the rainy-day weather they often like to associate with, then Morton and his crew really are a typhoon — larger-scale, more mature, and absolutely devastating. So put on a good pair of headphones, turn down the lights, and let Offerings wash over you; this saga of memory loss is unforgettable. Even years after listening, some fragments might echo through your head, like Steele’s bittersweet adage on the disarming “Bergeron”:

“You gotta learn how to live on an ever shorter tether / But if you’re good — even for once — it’s written you’ll be good forever.”

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