Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Kestrels are the heart and soul of frontman Chad Peck. Dream Or Don’t Dream is their 4th album and is one that brims with want from Peck to adapt, to take control, make decisions and choices that will ultimately impact and affect the direction of his life. That mixture of melancholy and grateful, soothing vibes clatter together, with moments of wistful longing, combined with hopeful desire, are enlightening, thought-provoking and ultimately, a warming experience.
It’s no surprise to hear that Peck began writing Dream Or Don’t Dream while he was hanging out with Tim Wheeler from Ash, some of the vocal hooks and guitar tone on this sound like they’ve been lifted off of 1977 in places, whilst tracks like the breathy, pop-rock banger of Everything Is New, give a huge nod to that 90s Ash sound of old and the way Peck delivers the line “waste your quiet time with me” has that tone of County Down’s finest in shedloads.
Opening track, Vanishing Point has such a punch to it, huge see-sawing riffs, muscular, flailing drum beats and this howling, fuzzed-up guitar squeal; it’s a dynamite attention-grabber, that details the breakdown and end of a relationship and has that paranoia of wanting to hide and finally letting go.
Vocal hooks absolutely litter this and can mostly be found kicking around inside It’s A Secret, when that chorus gets hold of you, you’ll be singing it after one listen, trust me. Peck’s melodic vocal lead on the chorus has that old-emo itch that you cannot help but scratch and reminds me of going to festivals, being with friends and will obliterate the feeling of lockdown nightmare that 2020 has become. The embracing synths of Dalloway and whispered, echoing vocals of Peck, alongside the shoegaze guitar tones are akin to that of a dream, with an almost, gothic, haunting build in the final minute and a half, with the kind of slouching, stubborn breakdowns of Meanderthal-era Torche in places.
One of the standout tracks on Dream Or Don’t Dream is the cosy embrace of Grey and Blue, (featuring Dinosaur Jr overlord J Mascis delivering a blistering solo) which ticks all the boxes of fuzzy, radiant, glowing alt-rock energy and will carve a huge smile into your face with its infectious hooks and beauty.
What Peck is excellent at doing is getting in, writing a 3-minute banger and then getting out again – Keep It Close is an example of this, from the anthemic and sweet-sounding “I lose my way home” chorus line, to the raging scribble of the noise-laden second guitar and drummer Michael Catano’s frantic percussion, it soars and shimmers with delightful, fuzz-punk elegance and majesty.
What Dream Or Don’t Dream by Kestrels does a very good job of, is making everything seem less awful. Here me out – it has that rose-tinted glasses approach of reminding you of how exciting, joyous and powerful mid-90s alt-pop-rock can sound, overwhelming you with huge sing-a-long choruses, crunching passages of noisy-fuzz and fragile, but loving, hope.
You can order Dream Or Don’t Dream by Kestrels from Darla Records.