Today’s Song: Typhoon Takes Us Along on for the Ride with “Empire Builder”

Typhoon © 2021
Typhoon © 2021
The warm and golden rock track “Empire Builder” by Portland band Typhoon reminds us that no matter how bumpy the ride, we are all headed for the same destination
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Listen: “Empire Builder” – Typhoon

Quite possibly the coolest name to exist in public transport, the Empire Builder is an Amtrak train that spans 2,206 miles. From Chicago to St. Paul to Spokane and finally Portland, the trip is 46 hours of uninterrupted American beauty. The train’s last stop is the birthplace of Typhoon, a twelve-piece Portland band that gives us their song of the same name. Released January 22, 2021, the track comes from the band’s third album under Roll Call Records. Sympathetic Magic was recorded remotely, a group effort from the twelve-piece band. As lead singer Kyle Morton writes, “I tracked the demos first and sent them out to the band. Then the improvised procession of friends dropping by my basement, one at a time, masks on.” Listening to “Empire Builder,” you can barely believe the orchestral indie sound was copied and pasted together.

Sympathetic Magic – Typhoon

You can almost see the landscape rolling beside you, feel the sun on your worn down and undoubtedly sweaty face. We begin with bare-bones, as the instruments roll together and the drums set the stage. The track is dense with a warm glow, thanks to the mix of electric guitar, strings, and carefully placed snare. The grit in lead singer Morton’s voice sings, “The apocalypse is incoming, only moving slow and unevenly.” The metaphors are laden and earnest, perfect for a song that is dark but not hopeless. The train passes “like the rising blade of the guillotine,” promptly and with purpose. We know how it’s moving, but we are not sure toward what. This song is for the overwhelmed. Morton reassures, “I know you’re feeling like you’re overmatched. Like the world’s against you, like the deck is stacked.” We are in the midst of something bigger than the people in the cabin and the rhythmic push-pull of the metal locomotive. Whatever it is, we must barrel towards it. Morton paints a picture, “And tiny points of light I see, haphazardly. Scattered in the void like so much bird feed. And I hope it’s enough.” The horns take us to an instrumental bridge, a kaleidoscope of instruments working in solidarity. 

The lights go down as the entire band echoes, Everybody’s angry, and everybody’s lonely.” They wonder together, “Maybe it’s hopeless and maybe love is not enough.” The piece climaxes in its final moments, filling in the gaps with chants of sound.  But Morton is there to gently remind us, “Let’s not rule out the possibility.”

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Listen: “Empire Builder” – Typhoon

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