"We choked on our inheritance"
There are times an act naturally moves away from the sound that had originally beguiled their fanbase. Sometimes it’s all part of following the muse, sometimes it’s just down to line up changes, and sometimes it’s simply down to the fact that the sound that had made them successful is no longer doing so well commercially, and they opt to follow the money.
Typhoon have been around for a while now. Since their debut in 2005, they have released three studio, a live album and a pair of EPs, each one gradually finding its way into the consciousness of a fanbase hungry for expansive, ambitious, indie rock. The sizeable line up orbits around songwriter and lead vocalist Kyle Morton, and have been based in Oregon since the very start of their career.
Offerings is album number four, and Typhoon’s ambition remains undimmed. There’s something very considered, very deliberate about Offerings. It is a huge sounding album, and while the single word song titles and convoluted concept (it’s apparently about memory loss) smack slightly of smartarsery, they give the album an extra layer of cohesion on top of its carefully constructed sound and its dark artwork. Every creative decision seems to have been made to maximise the appeal of Offerings to those who feel that Arcade Fire have strayed too far from the sound of their first three albums, and yearn for more of that big music style Americana. Offerings possesses that same sense of musical scale and ambition, though both lyrically and vocally Morton is some distance removed from the love him / hate him stylings of Win Butler. Something which really does stand out are Typhoon’s choral vocal treatments which make repeated appearances on and off throughout the album.
Such is the considered nature of Offerings that it works best as a cohesive whole, rather than individual tracks leaping out at you, and it is particularly effective as a headphone album to immerse yourself in. It is a shame then that it is at least twenty minutes too long, with the length of some tracks apparently being mistakenly equated to the scale of Typhoon’s ambitions. “Empiricist” is at least two minutes too long, and the two part “Sleep” could have been halved in duration and still have made for an epic closing number, and even with these cuts being made, it’s still at least quarter of an hour longer than it needs to be. Something which takes a while to notice is that commercial accessibility is perhaps sacrificed for complex arrangements that the listener can get lost in. Perhaps that is the point though. After all, 2017 has been a harrowing year in global terms, and so having an album as all consuming and complex as Offerings to get lost in can provide the listener with some much-needed escapism from an increasingly terrifying world.
Having listened to Offerings repeatedly for this review, I’ve come to the conclusion that until you reach the string enhanced slow build of “Chiaroscuro” aside, there’s little here that might translate into an airplay hit that might drag Typhoon on to the radio playlists. Even then, “Chiaroscuro” is so unrepresentative of Offerings that anyone buying the album on the strength of it might feel a little overawed by the full album and not give it the chance it deserves. “Darker”, might work better on radio, but again, it’s not exactly representative of the rest of the album, except “Ariadne”. Actually, it takes a few listens to come to the conclusion that the final third of the album might very well be its most commercial, as the tension is ratcheted up as we head towards the two part closer “Sleep”. It is almost as if the final five tracks could be a whole mini-album on their own, and perhaps splitting it into two distinct parts is the best way to approach Offerings. Indeed, the album makes a smidgen more sense in double vinyl format.
All things considered, chances are Offerings is an album that will hopefully reach its audience through word of mouth and favourable reviews, rather than one of its tracks somehow becoming a breakout hit for Typhoon. It deserves to as well, as it’s a rather splendid way to spend over an hour of your life, and could very well be the new favourite album of those who wish Arcade Fire hadn’t moved away from the sound that had originally beguiled their fanbase a few years ago.
Offerings is released on Roll Call Records on 12 January.