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Album review: Typhoon – Offerings

I’ll admit it – Offerings is the first Typhoon album I’ve listened to, but the Portland-based indie group’s fourth LP certainly makes a strong case for a dive into their back catalog. Bandleader Kyle Morton has crafted a truly impressive record here, one that deftly balances brooding instrumentation, keen melodic instincts, and vivid, intelligent lyricism.

Based on the huge number of band members (11!) credited in the liner notes, it would be easy to assume that Offerings is sonically overstuffed, but the whole album is remarkably dynamic and the mix rarely feels cluttered, despite the dense atmosphere. The album’s vibe feels indebted to mid-period Brand New, particularly Alex Fitch’s drumming – the echoing clatter of “Wake” and “Ariadne” sounds like it could have been lifted straight from The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. However, where Jesse Lacey faced his inner demons with a tangible air of self-loathing and fatalism, Morton’s nameless protagonist wanders Offerings’ 14 tracks with equal measures of desperation and confusion. His world is crumbling, through no fault of his own, and he’s too busy trying to save himself to ask why.

While Morton’s unspectacular, quavery tenor may call to mind the likes of Win Butler and Conor Oberst, such comparisons dissipate when one looks at Offerings’ lyrics, which whittle the broad emotional strokes of bands like Arcade Fire down to lacerating points before dipping them in poison and stabbing you through the chest. Tracks like “Chiaroscuro” and the devastating “Algernon” outline in heartbreaking detail the pain of watching a loved one lose themselves piece by piece. I don’t know if Morton has personally lost a friend or family member to dementia, but his writing is so evocative that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this album’s themes were inspired by first-person experiences.

Offerings’ weighty lyrical themes could have easily made it an oppressively dour affair, but Morton’s knack for melody makes the whole thing eminently listenable. And it’s not all doom and gloom – “Remember”’s bold, pulsing rhythm, quietly insistent piano, and fiery guitar accents act as counterpoint to its despairing narrative, the ethereal “Coverings” is as airy and sweet as cotton candy, and the jaw-dropping second movement of “Unusual” sounds downright jubilant, offering one of the album’s few truly cathartic moments before closing with a spine-chilling vocal passage.

If there’s one thing I can say about Offerings, it’s that it’s an album that merits careful attention and consideration. The more attention I pay to this album, the more I find to like about it. Offerings is subtly engrossing, and those who take the time to unravel its secrets will find their efforts richly rewarded.

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