Louisiana-born, Portland, OR-based troubadour Kyle Craft's second album, Full Circle Nightmare, is an entertaining and tremendously freewheeling record. Despite being just 28, Craft's songwriting is noticeably self-assured and beatnik; it plays like the musical incarnation of a Jack Kerouac novel, shifting from city to city in a variety of unsavoury situations.
Whether it's being the amoral companion of a prostitute in "The Rager" or reveller on "Belmont (One Trick Pony)," Craft writes busy narratives that range from nonchalant ("Fever Dream Girl") to lovesick and vulnerable ("Slick & Delta Queen"). His poetics are heavily Dylan-inspired, and there is no better example than "Heartbreak Junky," when Craft sings "I can reconcile what I ripped into, that haphazard, half-hearted love I was making with you." Bouncy wordplay and a boisterous band keep songs like this from the mire; even when Craft ventures into sentimental territory, airiness persists.
Whereas 2016's Dolls of Highland was primarily recorded in a bedroom, Full Circle Nightmare was Craft's first experience recording in an actual studio, and the energy is palpable. Each song is theatrically arranged with Craft belting like a Broadway star and the large band supporting his every word. The ebbs and flows become slightly predictable near the end of the album, but Craft does a terrific job of performing the songs, emoting and propelling his tales with vigour. Slightly burlesque in tone, the record respects the past and never ventures into the realm of full-on caricature, a pretty impressive feat for the relative newcomer evoking an age before his own. It will be interesting to see what Craft comes up with next. (Sub Pop)