RIYL: Neutral Milk Hotel, Gashcat, Bright Eyes, the Mountain Goats

Label: Sub Pop

Several years ago my show going buddy Brian told me that we should check out this band Gashcat that I would really like them. He found them on accident just by walking into a bar that they were playing.

The band was a rag tag collection of twenty-somethings who moved on and off the stage trading instruments depending on the song. The one constant was the man with the intense look in his eyes standing at the microphone with his acoustic guitar clutched in his hands.

That band was Gashcat, and that lead singer was Kyle Craft. Gashcat put out one of my favorite self released albums of recent memory. It was only available as a CDR at one of their shows. Then one day a Sub Pop promo copy of the CD showed up on Discogs. To this day it’s one of the strangest things that I am aware of.

I loved Gashcat so much that I included their song Every Summer, Every Spring on the mix CD that I handed out at my wedding.

All of this happened years ago now. I would guess the first show with Brian was in 2009 or maybe even 2008. Every now and then I would google Kyle Craft’s name. He had moved to Portland and would play some shows from time to time but wasn’t really touring. Then today I got an email from the long deceased Gashcat mailing list.
Kyle Craft is back with an LP and it’s coming out on Sub Pop.

Finally it’s all come full circle and I get to see him perform again in just a couple of weeks.

If you like Neutral Milk Hotel or early Bright Eyes or real emphatic Mountain Goats then definitely check out this record. I for one can not fucking wait!

The Details


All customers who pre-order the 2xLP version of Dolls of Highland will receive the album on Loser edition “Pink w/ Black Swirls” colored vinyl.
All pre-orders will also receive any and all pre-release track downloads in advance of the album release as they are made public, which will be available from your SubPop.com account as they become available.
Customers will be given access to stream the full album up to one (1) month before release day from your SubPop.com account, with your pre-order of the album on any format.
Cassette format does not come with a digital album download!

Kyle Craft grew up in a tiny Louisiana town on the banks of the Mississippi, where he spent most of his time catching alligators and rattlesnakes instead of playing football or picking up the guitar. He’s not the born product of a musical family, and bands never came through town–it was only a chance trip to K-Mart that gave him his first album, a David Bowie hits compilation that helped inspire him eventually to channel his innate feral energy into songwriting and rock and roll.

That self-made talent drives every note of Dolls of Highland, Craft’s exhilarating, fearless solo debut. “This album is the dark corner of a bar,” he says. “It’s that feeling at the end of the night when you’re confronted with ‘now what?’”

Craft knows the feeling well–Dolls began to take shape when everything he took for granted was suddenly over, including an eight-year relationship. “All of a sudden I was left with just me for the first time in my adult life,” he says. He decided to get himself and the music he’d been working on far away from the ghosts of his home in Shreveport, Louisiana, to make a new life for himself in Portland, Oregon, living under a friend’s pool table while he demoed new songs and started to tackle his own question about what came next.

Dolls of Highland crashes open with “Eye of a Hurricane,” a whirlwind of ragtime piano and Craft’s dynamic, enthralling vocals. He calls it a “jealous song,” stirred up by the memories of an ill-fated crush and a drama of “weird little connections, a spider web of what the fuck?”

The swinging, resonant “Lady of the Ark” is also tied up in that web, “a very incestuous song,” says Craft. “It’s about these messed up relationships, maybe involving me, maybe revolving around me.” Most of the characters and atmospheres on the album come from in and around Shreveport, where Craft briefly returned while recording the album for an intensely productive reckoning with his past. He stayed in a friend’s laundry room in the Highland neighborhood, where he recorded the whole album in two months on a home studio rig. “I dedicated the album to Shreveport and called it Dolls of Highland for all the girls and ghosts in town who influenced it so strongly.”

Craft eventually returned to Portland where Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel of The Helio Sequence helped refine and mix the album to move it from its DIY beginnings to a more fully realized work. Craft played most of the instruments on the album, but the recorded songs transmit the power of his live performance. “It’s just letting go,” says Craft. “I think it’s just all about feeling it in your chest.”

And then there’s Craft’s unforgettable voice–”I’m fully aware that I have a very abrasive, very loud voice, but Bob Dylan is the one that taught me to embrace that,” says Craft. “I stray away from him from time to time, but always come back. I don’t want to come off as antique, but I also don’t want to be afraid of paying homage to the stuff I’ve always loved.” With those influences as inspiration, Craft’s talent and singular creativity move the conversation into new and unpredictable places.

And no question, this album is very much about moving forward. “After everything fell apart, it didn’t take very long for me to learn who I was and what I should be doing,” says Craft, who is walking out on the other side with Dolls of Highland.

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Price $17

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