Dolls of Highland
It’s always somewhat off-putting when a release comes with a heaping helping of buzz. Why must you pay extra-special attention to this above all other materials coming down the chute? That said, Kyle Craft’s Sub Pop debut is probably worthy of such praise-bandying. Dolls of Highland is, above all, a (great) rock ’n’ roll record, a cauldron of styles and instrumentation roiling together and marinating in just the right ways. “Eye of the Hurricane” opens, fidgeting in a quirky ragtime piano groove, soon accompanied by a Muscle Shoals-inspired lead, and Craft’s voice cutting through in wide-ranging timbres, forcing notes that he sometimes cannot hit to great effect. Dylanesque in his poetics, Craft maneuvers through a fantastic smorgasbord of layered rock-opera dramatics—a nod to the theatrics and deep-space vision of composers/writers like Harry Nilsson. Songs like “Future Midcity Massacre” unearth Craft’s folky background, but even this barn-burner comes supplied with the kind of rockin’ backbeats, choruses and melodic flourishes that have made stars of those with less chatter surrounding them.