By Max Jacobs | June 19th, 2010
I’m not sure why it is that Portland churns out so many good indie records every year, but the city doesn’t appear to be stopping, and until then, I’ll keep listening. Portland band Typhoon is quite the hit within their hometown, though they have not yet gained significant national attention. With anywhere from 7 to 17 band members at any given time, they have earned a reputation for their live shows. Their 2nd record, “Hunger and Thirst,” demonstrates how a band with such fluctuating instrumentation can be hard to categorize (my best shot is “slow folk with a big sound”).
The first track, “Starting Over (Bad Habits),” is a good indicator of what’s to come. Even though several instruments chime in and out, the listener is still drawn to lead singer Kyle Morton’s quivering voice and morose lyrics.
One of the best songs on the record, “Mouth of the Cave,” is less than a minute long with hardly any instrumentation. A catchy chorus of vocals, stomps and claps display the powerful sound that such a large band can have. This track blends perfectly into the next song, which is exactly opposite of the one it leaves behind. At over 7 minutes long, “Belly of the Cavern,” has too many instruments to count and changes its’ tempo throughout.
“Hunger and Thirst” is by no means a perfect album. The large ensemble-band-supporting-the-singer-songwriter format is well worn territory in the indie music world, and Typhoon is not particularly innovative in the field. Their use of all this instrumentation, however, is what makes the album dynamic in the first place, even if it’s not groundbreaking. If this record were simply Kyle Morton and a guitar, it might not hold up, but the melodic assortment of horns, pianos, and drums that swell and build throughout the tracks keeps the listener pleasantly guessing as to what the next song will hold.
More than anything, though, this record piques my curiosity about their live performances. A ten piece band would be reason enough to see a group…but a seventeen piece band? I just want to see where they will all stand.