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Typhoon’s ambitious work succeeds brilliantly

With its fifth studio record, Typhoon’s Sympathetic Magic serves up a musical wake-up call, born of our shared isolation in these dark days. Released via Roll Call Records, the album’s pre-order vinyl offerings were nearly completely sold out a little over a week after release. This ambitious record fits in with towering records like Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Portland, Oregon-based Typhoon is Kyle Morton, Toby Tanabe, Dave Hall, Pieter Hilton, Alex Fitch, Tyler Ferrin, Devin Gallagher, and Shannon Steele.  Recorded during “plague times” as Morton commented, no obstacle was insurmountable here. From the opener “Sine Qua Nonentity” to the closing track “Welcome to the Endgame,” this sonic palette remains true to an eclectic songwriting style that finds touchstones in both Kurt Cobain and Rivers Cuomo.

Fitting opener “Sine Qua Nonentity” perfectly claims ownership for Sympathetic Magic’s  expansion out of a metaphorical nothingness. Shifting rapidly into “Empire Builder,” the band offers a slightly heavier feel, shifting musicality around a darkness that parallels the current worlds in which we live. Feeling like a train to nowhere, rich dynamics rise through a final crescendo.

“Motion and Thought” certainly is my song of the album. Rock and roll’s greatest reverberate throughout this track, with layered vocals bringing to mind The Byrds and The Box Tops. Yet this song’s incredible connection to our consciousness is its doorway into that space where ghost notes still play in our soul. Haunting, peaceful, and terrifying: a sleepwalker’s waltz. To say any one song is less than another here seems odd, but “Santos” is that nightmare after the dream. This is Typhoon’s story, and “We’re In It” does seem the rest of the story. Powerfully mixed with in-your-face instrumentation, horns step into a battle cry for the sake of our sanity.

Sympathetic Magic is not just Typhoon’s latest record, it’s an invitation to feel. “Two Birds” brings an overwhelming orchestration with drum machine automation, suggesting that humanity’s problem is its disconnection from empathy and reality. It’s weirdly perfect. The album’s tone shifts with “Evil Vibes.” Morton’s vocals connected with me emotionally for probably the first time on the album and never let go from there. 

Counting off as if alone in the dark, “And So What If You Were Right” seems to be an acoustic farewell. “Room Within Rooms” is a symbolic, ethereal safe space beyond life and death. “Masochists Ball” creates a long extended metaphor about the chaos masters in our shared experience. Closer “Welcome to the Endgame” wraps this release in perfection. Pulsating,  minimalist musicality allows each lyric to fill the empty spaces, surrounding each note into its final silence. Undoubtedly, Typhoon’s Sympathetic Magic crosses uncharted territory here with their musical response to the storm humanity has endured. –-Lisa Whealy