Dream Or Don't Dream by KestrelsRelease date: July 10, 2020
Label: Darla Records
Nova Scotian shoegaze band Kestrels has just dropped a barn burner of an album on Darla Records. The record is stuffed full of stormin’ guitar riffs, explosive drum beats (thanks to ace drummer Michael Catano), angelic vocals from singer/guitarist Chad Peck, and a guest appearance from none other than Dinosaur Jr. guitar maven, J. Mascis. Mixed by John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Alvvays, Kurt Vile, Cyndi Lauper) and mastering engineer Greg Calbi (David Bowie, Lou Reed, Television, Blondie), the final result is an in your face, fantastic sounding record that may easily make your best of year list.
Peck is a high school English teacher when he’s not laying down massive riffs, and this band has been his primary project since 2008 with influences ranging from MBV to Swervedriver. He began writing this record while staying with Ash’s Tim Wheeler, and started studio sessions in Massachusetts and also at a studio in Halifax. He befriended Mascis at a bike shop where Kestrels teamed up with Dinosaur Jr, and that led to Mascis recording multiple guitar takes for the superlative single ‘Grey and Blue’. It is major ear candy (think Sugar) and you will find yourself playing this one on repeat.
But back to the beginning: ‘Vanishing Point’ opens the record on a high point, and while the shadow of Dinosaur Jr colors things a bit, you may also hear a Mew influence. Peck sounds rather like Jonas Bjerre from that group, minus the prog rock instrumentation. Peck and Agnello worked closely on the production, and there are all sorts of effects on these songs. It’s a sonic wonderland, and is a brilliant sounding masterpiece.
Jumping past the aforementioned ‘Grey and Blue’, we have another excellent track, the ambient dream of ‘It’s a Secret’. This song especially reminds me of Mew, from the shifting dynamics which that group is known for, and it also reminds me that Mascis also worked with Mew on ‘Why Are You Looking Grave?’. Peck let the riffs fly on the bridge, but the song meanders back to a hazy drone that works well. ‘Don’t Dream’ mirrors some of the modern work of ‘gaze bands like Narrow Head, with soft and loud elements in perfect juxtaposition.
‘A Way Out’ starts off quiet and majestic and gradually raises the roof as it transforms into a blistering guitar fest. Peck is quite the guitarist, as evidenced by this song and many other great examples on this release. ‘Everything Is New’ has tinges of Catherine Wheel in its blood, while ‘Dalloway’ has dirty, fuzzed out sonics that may spin you into outer space. ‘Feels Like The End’ definitely owes a nod to Mascis, but it’s Peck who is the six string star here. The lengthy ‘Say Less’ is the album’s parting shot, and it changes pace several times before it all comes to an end. In summary, this is a terrific modern shoegaze album from a thoughtful artist known to sprinkle his work with literary references. Highly recommended!