White Lighter, the latest work from Portland, Ore.'s Typhoon, is lyrically awash in the imagery of death, yet it parlays a sense of optimism with quirky-in-a-good-way composition. Kyle Morton, the principal songwriter for the 11-piece (or more) pop orchestra band, nearly died as a child due to a serious bout with Lyme disease, and so it is that death reigns. On "Young Fathers," (a song bound to appear on many 2013 "best of" lists) Morton sings, "I was born in September / But if I die today, you know I won't regret you / Some things I can't explain." Yep, death is everywhere, but the specifics of it are a bit obtuse. The thematic bummer is accompanied by some dotty studio tricks, which, at first, led me to believe my headphones were partially unplugged. But the yawning horns, spritely lady vocals and engaging group-sing vocal finale make up for any perceived technical difficulties.
This is well-crafted pop music and "Young Fathers" is about as fun as Typhoon gets. "Artificial Light" is the most Typhoon-ian number on the album with jingle bells, glockenspiel, sawing strings, choirs upon choirs, blaring trumpets, tympani, Morton's quiet time whisperings—most often about his dad—and a cathartic finale that leaves your ears exhausted, but ready for more.
Typhoon plays the Top Hat Wed., Sept. 11, at 9 PM with Radiation City. Doors open at 8 PM. $14/$11 advance at Rockin Rudy's, Ear Candy and ticketfly.com. All ages.