Kyle Craft is one of those rare artists that I have been able to follow since his small, self-recorded beginnings; it is all too often that we only discover artists after they have been signed to a major label, I remember stumbling upon songs such as “Melanie,” “Horseshoe Crab” and “The Morning Sum” years ago, while Craft was still recording in a band as Gashcat. I discovered this after searching for Neutral Milk Hotel-esque bands. While comparisons between the two can be drawn largely in the raw vocal and lyrical passion between Craft and Jeff Mangum, Craft has created a unique sound, while still citing David Bowie, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys as influences.
After building up a fanbase and finishing small tours with friends, Craft eventually made his way from his hometown Shreveport, LA to the Seattle W.A. offices of Sub Pop — most famous for grunge bands Nirvana and Soundgarden — where “fate was smiling upon Sub Pop, not Kyle Craft,” as Sub Pop representatives put it. Sub Pop has a notoriously harsh demo policy, bluntly stating on their website that “it is extremely rare that a band gets signed on the strengths of a demo alone.” Craft had shyly left a CD with the Sub Pop receptionist and went on his way. Now, he has successfully released two original albums with Sub Pop — Dolls of Highland and Full Circle Nightmare — and has left his previous lo-fi sound behind with the availability of a full studio. The increased instrumentations most recognizable in songs such as “Gloom Girl,” “Exile Rag” and “Fake Magic Angel.”
Craft sings with a full-hearted confidence, not shying away from full-lunged wails. This is most apparent in “Lady of the Ark” and “Horseshoe Crab,” always reminding the listener that he gives every note everything he has. Lyrically, Craft writes about relationships, party culture, religion, love and loss, and is not afraid to tackle tougher subjects, especially in songs like “The Rager” and “Berlin.” Craft’s wit can be found in lines such as, “Lady of the ark, I think you were the start/ I think you were the key with which his heart was closed,” “The jester choked on his jokes in the spotlight” and “Your precious dirge upon the stage was so drowned out/ But I realized it’s not the song or the stage that made you shine/ It’s the way you speak, your soft mystique.” Craft demonstrates a wisdom beyond his years while commenting on priorities in our culture when singing “Gathered the jewelry, melted it down, made for yourself to go idolize.”
In addition to his original work, Craft has released an album of covers of his favorite female singers and songwriters, entitled Girl Crazy, featuring covers from Jenny Lewis, Cher, St. Vincent, Blondie, Sharon Van Etten, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Patsy Cline, TLC, Karen Dalton and Patti Smith. Craft has also covered Leonard Cohen’s 1974 classic, “Chelsea Hotel #2,” swapping the guitar for a piano and again demonstrating his vocal prowess. Craft is still young, only 29 years old, and has many fans and outstanding originals under his belt. He leaves listeners looking forward to seeing him expand his musical style, ability and impact.