I remember the exact moment I discovered Okkervil River. I was nineteen and it wasn’t that long after Black Sheep Boy came out. Everyone whose opinion I respected about music was making a fuss about this band from Texas and me, being the snot that I was, refused to buy into the hype … Then I heard “For Real.” Shortly after that, I poured over the entirety of Black Sheep Boy and within days, I’d memorized all of Okkervil River’s back catalog. In the time it took me to digest all of the band’s music, it was proven to me that destiny existed because it was so clear that I was meant to love Okkervil River. In the years since that realization, the Texas quintet has soundtracked countless pivotal moments in my existence, from near nervous breakdowns to times I was so excited I thought my heart would literally explode from happiness. Okkervil River and I had it all.
Just like most great love stories, this one has a sad end. Okkervil River and I grew apart after The Stage Names. After The Stand Ins left me feeling somewhat cold, I Am Very Far only pushed me further from the band. After having a pretty serious revelation about just how much Will Sheff’s lyrics have affected my life, I realized that Okkervil River and I just weren’t meant for each other anymore. And so it was, with a heavy heart, that I set upon the seemingly aimless quest to discover my new favorite band. It was a quest that I expected to take months, maybe even years. For a while, I even flirted with the idea of bestowing the title upon Timber Timbre who I do adore, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that for all the ways I love Timber Timbre, they don’t illicit the emotional response inside me that Okkervil River used to. It was a feeling I missed and one that I found myself experiencing again only weeks ago when I happened upon Typhoon.
There’s a familiarity about Portland-based Typhoon, a comforting resonance in their songs. The internet’s compared them to everyone from Fleet Foxes to Arcade Fire but no matter how much they remind me of other bands I love, Typhoon consistently makes music that’s as unpredictably original as it is refreshingly familiar. And with twelve members, Typhoon brings forth a cacophony of sounds that take multiple listens to fully appreciate. That’s part of the reason I haven’t listened to anything except for Typhoon for literally days. Another huge factor in that? The lyrics. Oh my goodness, the lyrics.
The lyrics of Typhoon’s songs have macabre leanings, most of them having to do with lead singer Kyle Morton’s struggle with coming to terms with his own mortality. It’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot recently because, like Morton, I’ve suffered from a disease that alters my day-to-day existence. Songs like “The Sickness Unto Death,” with lyrics like “Every night I pray that in the morning when I wake, I’ll be in a familiar place and I’ll find that I’m recovered and I’m sane,” make me feel as if Typhoon were created specifically for me, to provide me comfort in company, the sobering reminder that I’m never alone as I feel. No matter how bleak the subject matter at hand, Typhoon’s songs seem to be infused with an inherent charm and optimism. Even “The Sickness Unto Death,” one of Typhoon’s most confessional and dark songs, ends with the positive (albeit bittersweet) notion that what’s been taken away can be reclaimed. References to starting over litter the band’s discography, which currently consists of two amazing full-lengths and a few EPs, all of which are definitely worth checking out.
Typhoon is about finding the beauty in sickness, the sliver of light in all encompassing darkness. I haven’t gotten the chance to catch Typhoon live (because, you know, I just discovered them like last week) but from the gorgeous Tiny Desk concert above, I can’t imagine I wouldn’t burst into tears or do something equally as embarrassing because nothing pleases me more than bands that can recreate a lush and expansive recorded sound live. Combine that with the fact that Morton’s lyrics have already got my heart in a vice grip and it all adds up to one thing: Typhoon is the new Okkervil River! Well, in my eyes at least. It’s just that Typhoon really does have everything I could ever hope for in a band: Neutral Milk Hotel-esque horns; beautifully layered harmonies set to a backbone of masterfully gentle chord changes and arpeggiations; all with a sound varied enough to appease my more raucous moods as well as my solitary moments. It was another moment of musical fate in my life when I stumbled upon Typhoon, just like it was with Okkervil River all those years ago. Only without the memories of a once passionate relationship gone cold between us, everything is just sunshine and roses with Typhoon in my life! I imagine this is what it’s like when you fall in love with a boy. Too bad I’m a commitmentphobe so I’ll never know!
The only bummer about Typhoon is that, with a dozen members, the band doesn’t hit the road much. That just means that if you have the chance to see Typhoon live anywhere within the tri-state area of your home, it would probably be advisable to make the trip. ‘Til then however, check out the band’s entire Sasquatch set on NPR. It’s literally making me seethe with anger about the fact that I’m only just now discovering this band! Who knows how many times I could have seen them if I knew about them sooner?! Thankfully, we all have many years of loving Typhoon ahead of us so now seems like a perfect time for you to fall in love with Typhoon, too.