Kyle Craft’s “Pentecost” is the latest offering from Dolls of Highland, his forthcoming Sub Pop debut.
NPR Music’s “All Songs Considered” had this to say of the track, “Pentecost” sees Kyle Craft…return to his hometown in Louisiana, haunted by the ghost of a friend who took his own life. Paired with his knack for great melodies, it demonstrates Craft’s emotional power as a songwriter (see premiere via “New Mix” March 1st).”
NPR Music also discussed Craft’s ‘Lady of the Ark” for its “Songs We Love” feature this week. They said of the track, “Like many artists from the South, Craft has a conflicted relationship with the region’s cultural duality, a topic he tackles on “Lady Of The Ark.” Shrouded in guitars and organ, he caustically wails, “Swing low, low sweet heathen / Swing for the wretch and the rock and roll kid,” a line he says he wrote in response to the “shame, shame thing that ‘church folk’ tend to do so often,” and which doesn’t sit well with Craft. “Roam this earth repeat it / All this sin until this wicked world makes sense in time,” he defiantly growls near the song’s end. Craft’s roaming days may be done for now, but “Lady Of The Ark” shows his music as wild-eyed and restless (“Songs We Love” feature March 2nd).”
Dolls of Highland was written, recorded and produced by Craft, mixed by Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel of The Helio Sequence at the Old Jantzen Building in Portland, and mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound.
About Kyle Craft:
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.
What ‘The People’ have said about Kyle Craft:
“Craft admits his voice sounds a good deal like Bob Dylan’s, and that his muse has come to him many, many times. Still, “Lady of the Ark” hints that Craft’s music is so full of its own weird singularity that he’s on to something far beyond idol worship.” - Billboard
“With inviting, yet imperfect vocals and a jangly guitar melody, “Lady of the Ark” is a sweeping goodbye to a long-term relationship. It’s somehow warm, melodic, and rough at the same time.” [The Weeks Best Tracks”] - FLOOD
“It’s thrilling. It’s the sort of music that can only come from a somewhat unique musical outlook, a track that instantly sounds like nobody other than Kyle Craft. The huge sound of pounding drums, the almost mariachi handclaps, the frankly bizarre fairground-organ interlude, the lyrics than hint at a complex incestuous web of lives and lies, and all that before you even get to the voice…he has said that listening to Bob Dylan inspired him to embrace his voice and make the most of it. Kyle has suggested he shares a tone with Bob, but to our ears it’s more like the love child of Withered Hand and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, and that’s a very good, if slightly divisive, place to be.” - For The Rabbits
“Hard to believe given the innate sense of pop heritage that blossoms from every ounce of his fruitful, endearingly scorched lead vocal but it wasn’t until Craft stumbled upon a David Bowie that he began to take an interest in music. Lucky for us that he did – debut track ‘Lady Of The Ark’ is a stormy, rugged gem, led by one of the most distinctly impressive new voices in the game. A mighty fine introduction.” - Gold Flake Paint
Heron Oblivion’s U.S. tour schedule in support of their self-titled debut, has been extended, and now spans March 3rd in Oakland, CA at Starline Social Club though June 18th in Portland, OR at Mississippi Studios. Newly added dates include stops in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, DC, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago in late May and early June. Additionally, Heron Oblivion’s festival schedule includes: March 11th in Marfa, TX for Marfa Myths; June 10th -11th in Sonoma, CA at Huichica Music Festival; and the Levitation Festival’s two North American dates, held on April 30th in Austin and June 17th in Vancouver. (complete tour dates below.)
You can now hear Heron Oblivion in full via NPR Music’s “First Listen”.
NPR Music says of the album: “Heron Oblivion shows an uncanny ability to merge and move between authentic forms of psychedelic expression, be they slow burners like “Beneath Fields” and the 10-minute “Rama,” or in woollier offerings like “Oriar” and the whammy-bar-heavy “Faro,” in which Baird enters a vocal trance from which many might never return. Across the whole endeavor, Saufley and Harmonson display a shared language of dynamic shifts and withering, feedback-laden bursts of guitar that create a deeply unsettling effect. Miller hangs back, providing a near-perfect foil to Baird’s minimalist, atmospheric percussion.
“Still, it’s Baird’s voice that sets Heron Oblivion apart: Clear and breathy, it evokes the spirits of Sandy Denny, Trees’ Celia Humphris, Judy Dyble, and the vocal performers from the Wicker Man soundtrack, among others. It cuts through even the grimiest displays of noise the band can muster, punctuating the band’s doom-laden sentiments with bell-tolling finality and grave seriousness. Even if it’s not what the group had envisioned as its calling card, that stern mood helps Heron Oblivion stand out. With any luck, this music will mark a sea change in how we approach psychedelic music in general: as a sound that’s both rooted in history and geared toward the future (see“First Listen” February 24th).”
Heron Oblivion will be released on CD / LP / DL / CASS worldwide Friday, March 4th through Sub Pop. The album, which features the highlights “Oriar”, “Beneath Fields”, “Your Hollows” and “Sudden Lament”, was produced and mixed by the band in San Francisco at The Mansion.
Heron Oblivion is now available for preorder from the Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Bandcamp. LP preorders from megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited “Loser” edition on clear vinyl with a white swirl (while supplies last). Additionally, a slate gray T-shirt will be available with CD and LP bundles and as a stand alone item.
More on Heron Oblivion from WFMU’s Brian Turner: Pastoral pummel. Listening to Heron Oblivion’s album feels like sitting in a lovely meadow in the shadow of a dam that’s gonna heave-ho’ any minute. Members of this new San Francisco combo have put in time in both raging and relatively tranquil psychedelic sound units—this is the premise and the synergy behind this very unique and special new album (read more atSub Pop).
Tour Dates: Mar. 03 - Oakland, CA - Starline Social Club* Mar. 04 - San Francisco, CA - Amoeba Records (instore) Mar. 05 - Los Angeles, CA - Resident^ Mar. 06 - San Diego, CA - ‘Til Two Mar. 11 - Marfa, TX - Marfa Myths Mar. 20 - Santa Cruz, CA - Don Quixote’s International Music Hall** Apr. 30 - Austin, TX - Levitation Festival Jun. 17 - Vancouver, BC - Levitation Vancouver (Cobalt) May 27 - Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle May 28 - Brooklyn, NY - Union Pool May 31 - Washington, DC - DC9 Jun. 01 - Cleveland Heights, OH - Grog Shop Jun. 02 - Detroit, MI - UFO Factory Jun. 03 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen Jun. 10-11 - Sonoma, CA - Huichica Music Festival Jun. 16 - Seattle, WA - Sunset Tavern Jun. 17 - Vancouver, BC - Levitation Vancouver - Cobalt Jun. 18 - Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios * with CCR Headcleaner, Bill Orcutt ^ with Morgan Delt, Itasca ** with Fred & Toody (of Dead Moon)
What people are saying about Heron Oblivion: “…A raging new psych band.” - Uncut
“These San Franciscans are that rarest of beasts: a supergroup that delivers more than the sum of its parts. Their debut album triumphs, thanks to how well those constituent parts complement each other…Heron Oblivion’s blend of tender melodies and lysergic moods works so well you wonder why these kindred spirits waited so long to collaborate; let’s hope it’s no one-off.” [4/5] - MOJO
“Anyone hoping to hear the mash-up of extroverted guitar blowouts and folk-derived lyricism promised by their collective CV will get what they came for, but Heron Oblivion’s root equation is multivariate multiplication, not addition. The way they factor in bits of Crazy Horse, Fairport Convention, and The Stooges and High Rise gets complicated in a hurry, so that even when you recognize the elements they own the final sum.” -The Wire
“…Like Pentangle and Black Mountain gorging on magic mushrooms at a woodland commune” - Q
“Whereas Baird’s serene vocals are reminiscent of folk greats like Sandy Denny, the unhinged guitars are pure psych firework displays, exploding frequently, shimmering and screaming, waningmomentarily into the background, and then blasting off again with frazzled gusto.” - The Quietus
“Expressive guitar lines laced with feedback sprawl out again and again without trailing away too far. Meg Baird’s serene voice harkens back to ’60s folk singers, subdued in a way that lends special gravity without being bombastic. Frankly, the group sounds exactly like what psychedelic rock should sound like.” [“Oriar”] -Stereogum
“Not much of HO’s music lives online at the moment, but what’s there suggests a group— Ethan Miller, Noel V. Harmonson, Meg Baird, and Charles Saufley—who like to jam for long durations in the fuzzy, fiery guitar-laden zone where Neil Young’s Zuma meets Joe Walsh-era James Gang. (One track is called “Funeral Funk 49,” and while it’s not as funky as James Gang’s 1970 hit, it takes you deeper into trance land.) Heron Oblivion alsoclaim influences from the Japanese power-psych label PSF and UK electric folk rock, and Baird’s vocals counterbalance the swarming sound with a dulcet breeziness.” -The Stranger
“San Francisco band Heron Oblivion (who just signed with Sub Pop) opened the night. Fronted by singer/drummer Meg Baird of the Espers (and a Philly ex-pat who’s sung backing vocals for Vile), the band set the tone for the night with some moody psych-folk/noise rock that was made all the more impressive when paired with Baird’s powerful, haunting voice.” -Three Match Breeze
Cullen Omori’s debut album New Misery comes out next Friday, March 18th, but you can listen to the album in it’s entirety right now via Stereogum.
Stereogum says of the album, “With its romantic melodies, delicate lyrics, and dreamy sounds, New Misery radiates the warmth of a spring day and the enamored freshness of a new love…In songs like “And Yet The World Still Turns” and “Synthetic Romance,” Omori’s pristine voice shimmers over elaborate synths and profound keys, capturing his developed pop sound. Meanwhile, songs like “LOM” and “No Big Deal” feature a danceable guitar that bleeds and blends, creating impressive, twinkling rhythms (see album premiere March 11th).”
Earlier this week, Cullen Omori also shared “Synthetic Romance” from New Misery. i-D says of the track, “The enigmatic frontman’s taste for bubblegum pop (and just regular bubble gum) has resulted in a standout clutch of solo tracks that he can truly call his own (see track premiere March 8th).”
Omori began working on solo material in early 2014 which has now fully materialized as New Misery, a collection of 11 songs building upon his own musical past while reaching towards the future of what guitar rock could be. His songs marry dark yet blissful pop with vocal melodies and hooks that are at once immediate yet demand to be heard again and again.
Cullen Omori’s previously announce spring tour schedule in support of New Misery resumes March 14th in Columbia, MO at Rose Hall and currently ends April 24th in Toronto, ON at Horseshoe Tavern.He’s also appear at the 2016 edition of SXSW in Austin, Texas (March 16t-19th). Complete tour dates are below.
New Misery will be available on CD / LP / DL / CASS worldwide next Friday, March 18th, and you can pre-order it now through Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Bandcamp. LP pre-orders though megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited “Loser” edition on clear vinyl with black, white and gold swirls (while supplies last).
More on Cullen Omori: “I had this overwhelming feeling that perhaps the apex of my life both as a musician and as an individual would be relegated to five years in my late teens/early 20s,” says Cullen Omori, who was launched into the music industry when the Smith Westerns, who started in high school in Chicago, became fast-rising indie stars. “This fear really forced me to work hard as to not see the Smith Westerns as an end but as a point along a bigger trajectory.”
While New Misery grew out of a difficult personal and professional time for Omori, he says the title reflects “not so much the distress that comes with failure, but the troubles and complexities that come with any type of success. No matter what you get you’re going to want more, you’re going to want something different. That’s the catch.”
The title track is a dreamy, resonant reflection on these feelings, but is also a guidepost for Omori’s musical evolution. “The song starts slow and then builds with two solos,” he says. “There’s the guitar solo which is very much a Smith Westerns thing. The next solo is on the keyboard, which is a shift to a lot of what I’m trying to do.” Synths play a much larger role in Omori’s new music than in the Smith Westerns’ guitar-fueled rock, as do a wide range of influences including Roxy Music, INXS, Spiritualized, Wilco, Garbage, Hall & Oates, Kate Bush, U2, and Sparks. There’s also a more deliberate pop streak, inspired by the top-40 radio that would play while Omori worked at a medical supply company cleaning stretchers and wheelchairs (read more at Sub Pop).”
What people are saying about Cullen Omori: “Shimmering beauty” [“Cinnamon”/ “New Music of the Day”] - NME
“It’s bittersweet, blissful pop with an ’80s hue - vocal melodies and hooks that are at once immediate yet demand to be heard again and again. Job well done, Cullen.” [“Cinnamon”] - The 405
“Sour Silk” is the combination of sounds you weren’t sure could be mixed, blended into a song that sounds both effortless and endlessly faceted.” [“Sour Silk”] - Stereogum
“His songs marry dark yet blissful pop with vocal melodies and hooks that are at once immediate yet demand to be heard again and again.” [“Sour Silk”] - Northern Transmissions
“Led by dreamy, glimmering guitars, it takes Smith Westerns’ knack for a poppy hook to the next level.” [“Cinnamon”] - Consequence of Sound
Tour Dates Mar. 14 - Columbia, MO - Rose Hall Mar. 15 - Norman, OK - Opolis Mar. 16 - Austin, TX - SXSW - Waterloo Records Day Party (4pm) Mar. 17 - Austin, TX - SXSW - Under The Radar Day Party / Flamingo Cantina (1:35pm) Mar. 17 - Austin, TX - SXSW - Paradigm Showcase / The Parish (midnight) Mar. 18 - Austin, TX - SXSW - Sub Pop Showcase / Blackheart Bar (midnight) Mar. 19- Austin, TX - SXSW - Urban Outfitters Day Party (4pm) Mar. 24 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall* Mar. 25 - Madison, WI - High Noon* Mar. 26 - Minneapolis, MN - 7th St. Entry* Mar. 28 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge* Mar. 29 - Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge* Mar. 30 - Boise, ID - Neurolux* Apr. 01 - Seattle, WA - Barboza* Apr. 02 - Vancouver, BC - Fortune Sound Club* Apr. 03 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir* Apr. 05 - San Francisco, CA - The Independent* Apr. 07 - Los Angeles, CA - Teragram Ballroom* Apr. 08 - San Diego, CA - Casbah* Apr. 09 - Phoenix, AZ - Valley Bar* Apr. 11 - Austin, TX - Stubb’s Jr* Apr. 12 - Dallas, TX - Prophet Bar* Apr. 13 - Houston, TX - Raven Tower* Apr. 15 - Atlanta, GA - The Earl* Apr. 16 - Nashville, TN - High Watt* Apr. 17 - Columbus, OH - The Basement* Apr. 18 - Washington, DC - DC9* Apr. 19 - Philadelphia, PA - Boot & Saddle* Apr. 21 - Allston, MA - Great Scott* Apr. 22 - New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom* Apr. 23 - Montreal, QC - Le Divan Orange* Apr. 24 - Toronto, ON - Horseshoe Tavern* *w/ Living Hour
“Valley Clouds” is the official video from Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop’s forthcoming duets record, Love Letter for Fire. The charming new visual tells the story of two outlaws of the karaoke circuit, who deliver an over the top yet vulnerable performance of the song in a Chicago bar. Directed by Erin Elders, the “Valley Clouds” video takes its inspiration from German and Scandinavian cinema of the 60s and 70s, contrasting light-hearted humor with visually intense vignettes (see Pitchfork video premiere March 10th).
Sam and Jesca recently released a short film on the making of Love Letter for Fire. The two discuss the process of how their collaborative album came to fruition and how two people not in love wrote an entire album of love songs. The clip also features exclusive performances of the two in a stripped down and intimate setting [watch here].
Love Letter for Firewill be available on CD / LP / DL / CASS worldwide April 15th through Sub Pop/Black Crickett Recording Co. The album is now available for preorder at Sub Pop Mega Mart, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and Bandcamp. LP preorders through megamart.subpop.com will receive the limited Loser edition on Smoke-colored vinyl (while supplies last).
Love Letter for Fire features Beam and Hoop on vocals and guitar along with Robert Burger (keys), Eyvind Kang (violin, viola), Glenn Kotche (drums, percussion), Sebastian Steinberg (bass) and Edward Rankin-Parker (cello).
[Photo credit: Josh Wool]
Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop previously announced North American tour in support Love Letter for Fire begins Tuesday, May 17th in Ann Arbor, MI at The Ark and ends Saturday, June 11th in Chicago, IL at Thalia Hall. The tour will feature support from Dead Oceans recording artist Marlon Williams.
Tour Dates May 17 - Ann Arbor, MI - The Ark* May 18 - Toronto, ON - The Danforth Music Hall* May 20 - New York, NY - The Town Hall* May 21 - Washington, DC - The Lincoln Theatre* May 22 - Boston, MA - The Wilbur Theatre* May 24 - Philadelphia, PA - Union Transfer* May 26 - Atlanta, GA - The Buckhead Theatre* May 27 - New Orleans, LA - The Civic Theatre* May 28 - Dallas, TX - The Kessler Theater* May 30 - Tucson, AZ - The Rialto Theatre* May 31 - Los Angeles, CA - The Fonda Theatre* Jun. 02 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall* Jun. 03 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater* Jun. 04 - Seattle, WA - Neptune Theatre* Jun. 05 - Boise, ID - The Egyptian Theatre* Jun. 07 - Boulder, CO - Boulder Theater* Jun. 08 - Omaha, NE - Slowdown* Jun. 09 - Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theater* Jun. 10 - Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall Ballroom* Jun. 11 - Chicago, IL - Thalia Hall* * w/ Marlon Williams
Kristin Welchez - aka Dee Dee, leader of internationally acclaimed rock outfit Dum Dum Girls, will release X-Communicate, the debut album from her new solo project, Kristin Kontrol, on CD / LP / DL / CASS worldwide May 27 via Sub Pop. Tapped as the first single, “X-Communicate” melds new wave with synth pop in a slice of glistening cosmic disco. You can share/listen to the track right over HERE.
The album pre-order is underway HERE. Fans who pre-order X-Communicate digitally will instantly receive “X-Communicate” as well. Additionally, the limited, blue-vinyl Loser Edition is available to pre-order customers at megamart.subpop.com, and at select independent record stores (while supplies last).
With Kristin Kontrol, Dee Dee sheds her skin, ditching the alter ego she’d assumed in Dum Dum Girls – for her given name, Kristin. Once again, she is smashing boundaries, only this time it’s the ones she had drawn to define herself artistically.
“For me as leader of Dum Dum Girls it felt very stoic and serious, and I am serious, but anyone who really knows me knows the other side; I’m silly – I smile a lot,” explains Kristin. “As the years went on, it was so weird that I kept so much of me out of my art.”
[Photo by Jimmy Fontaine]
As Kristin Kontrol, she tells her stories using a sonic palette splashed with bold pop melodies, her vocals showcasing a range hitherto unexplored on record. The album was produced by Kurt Feldman (of Ice Choir and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) and Andrew Miller (who played guitar in the Dum Dum Girls’ last incarnation). Longtime Dum Dum Girls producer Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go’s) provided “sonic consultation,” giving Kristin feedback on the new songs and inspiring her to continually push further. After writing 62 songs for the project, she whittled them down to the 10 that will be featured on this debut.
“The first music I really identified as my own was very poppy, classic 80s, from Debbie Gibson and Tiffany to Janet Jackson and Madonna,” says Kristin, who grew up in Northern California and now resides in New York City. “I didn’t want to make another rock’n’roll record.”
With its synth-sax flourishes and minimal groove, album opener “Show Me” sounds like the soundtrack to a previously unseen John Hughes movie montage. ”(Don’t) Wannabe” loops Enya-esque vocals and features her first reverse guitar solo while “White Street” is Kristin’s most narrative song yet, telling the tale of a specific night - last New Year’s Eve - in New York City. Kristin spoke more about the upcoming album in her recent Sirius XMU interview with Jenny Eliscu HERE.
Dum Dum Girls was Kristin’s guise for the best part of a decade. After posting her bedroom recordings online, she caught the ears of Sub Pop. From there she assembled her group of badass, black-clad cadets and toured the world. Over the course of three albums, four EPs and a bold brace of singles, Dum Dum Girls morphed from the girl group-gone-bad moves of debut album I Will Be (2010), to the comparatively plush noir-pop of 2014’s Too True.
In a review of Too True, The New York Times observed, “each successive album has largely offered refinements and variations.” “Too True preserves what makes Dum Dum Girls great, while pushing the band to brilliant new heights,” said Alternative Press and MOJO praised its “mythic ambition. “Dum Dum Girls supported Too True with a North American tour, a performance on “Late Show with David Letterman,” and a series of videos, including ”“Lost Boys & Girls Club,” which was produced with support from H&M Life, and “Are You Okay,” which was produced and directed by novelist/screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis.
Kristin Kontrol will announce live dates soon, but in the meantime, fans can find her DJ’ing at SXSW later his month. Her recent video capturing a street art tribute to David Bowie, that was painted on the railings on a New York City street, caught fire and now has more than 13 million views. It can be seen HERE.