Kyle Morton writes songs for Typhoon as if they were the last works he might ever create. His band is big by rock standards, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen members playing mighty, powerful songs whose instrumentation conveys big, bold joy. But underneath it all are the words of a young man living on what he feels is borrowed time. When he was young, Morton contracted a serious case of Lyme disease; he suffered multiple organ failures and required a kidney transplant from his father. Basically, his childhood was taken from him.
For the past few years, I've been following Morton — now 27 — and his big band of horns, strings, drums and guitars from Portland, Ore. They've put out some memorable music, but the new White Lighter takes the promise they've shown and delivers completely. The uplifting melodies and rhythms that sway and swing, mixed with lyrics about hopeless dreams and cold realities, works so well. It's the kind of combination that has me singing words over and over — words that, if laid on paper, might not be ones I'd want stuck in my head. They're dark, but in that darkness can be found a sincere appreciation for the gift of life.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Each week, First Listen - at NPRMusic.org - gives you the chance to hear an upcoming album in its entirety a week or so before it's officially released.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: Now, we're bringing the opportunity for a first listen to the radio and our MORNING EDITION audience, with the help of NPR's Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton. They help choose the albums for a First Listen. They also host the NPR show and blog ALL SONGS CONSIDERED, where they survey the musical landscape, discussing new bands and trends in music. Bob and Robin stopped by the MORNING EDITION studios to talk about Typhoon, a band with a new album out later this month.
ROBIN HILTON, BYLINE: Bob Boilen, you're pretty old. You must think of your own mortality quite a bit, I'm guessing.
BOB BOILEN, BYLINE: All the time. In fact, that's why I run out to shows all the time. I figure it could be the last one I see.
HILTON: Well, Kyle Morton is only 27 years old, but this guy thinks about his mortality a lot. He is the lead singer for a band out of Oregon called Typhoon. And when he was a kid, he had a horrible, horrible bout of Lyme disease that nearly killed him. He had multiple organ failures. He needed a kidney transplant.
BOILEN: His dad gave him the kidney.
HILTON: He got the kidney from his dad. And since then, he says he feels like he's living on borrowed time. And the Typhoon has this incredible new record coming out, called "White Lighter." And even on this record, he says he feels like he's lived beyond his expiration date.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE LIGHTER")
TYPHOON: (Singing) I was born in September, (unintelligible) I can't remember. I replaced it with scene from the (unintelligible).
BOILEN: When Kyle Morton made this record, he said I had reason to believe that this would be the last thing, the last record he ever made. And you sense this urgency - I've seen this band. We've seen this band. They're a huge ensemble. I mean, there's like...
HILTON: Twelve, 13 people at any time.
BOILEN: Twelve, 13, 14, 15, 16, depending. It is full of, you know, horns and strings and multiple drummers. And it is just pure joy. This music is pure joy. But the underlying themes are...
HILTON: Pretty bleak. But the music itself is so beautiful, it sounds like everything is going to be OK.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHITE LIGHTER")
TYPHOON: (Singing) I just called to tell you, I just called to say, learn how you're the same. Pass it on through generations.
MONTAGNE: You can hear all of Typhoon's latest album for the next couple of weeks. It's called "White Lighter," part of our First Listen series at NPRMUSIC.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.