Kestrels’ self-titled album reflects the band’s clever opposition to genre compartmentalisation, soaring against the breeze that is the sound of contemporary indie-rock, and landing in a sub terrain known as shoegazing: where neo-psychedelic meets mid-nineties alternative. It’s Tame Impala meets Nirvana after a curious collision with Neon Trees.
Upon first play, the unacquainted listener may describe the album as bewildering – even misleading. While guitar riffs like that in ‘No Alternative’ evoke images of an experimental garage band playing on a Sunday afternoon, Chad Peck’s almost-ethereal lead and backing vocals in ‘Neko’ offer the listener a more psychedelic experience. The apparent clash of genres works symbiotically, resulting in the Kestrels’ repeat-worthy third album.
Paul Brown’s drum-work is strong, providing a solid backbone to each track, and paving the way for the development of tone through electric guitar chords and solos. ‘Suspect’ will have listeners punching the air mosh pit-style, while ‘Neko’ instantly encourages spontaneous foot stamping and involuntary air drumming with its tribal beat.
The album lyrics are minimal, often allowing for subtle synthesizer sounds and Devin Peck’s bass to take precedence. Notably, ‘Are You Alone?’ begins with heavy, monotone guitar and bass reminiscent of The Smiths’ edgy ‘How Soon Is Now’; its dark, foreboding tone complemented by haunting lyrics in the form of rhetorical questions.
‘Lying Down’ is a calm and welcomed tribute to late nineties rock – Peck’s voice reflecting a Liam Gallagher-esque longing, responsive of ‘Champagne Supernova’. Its passivity brands this the perfect ballad for rainy a Saturday, listening while laying lethargic and languid on the lounge. And yet, Peck’s melodies often deviate from the predictable. ‘Decent of Their Last’ breaks indie convention when the lone space-like synth and constant drumbeat increasingly energise the listener, only to forcefully slow down at the introduction of Peck’s unhurried, astral vocals singing a verse that in melody and structure should be naturally contained to a chorus; this is further emphasised by awkward transitions from natural to flat throughout. The sudden chord disruption and juxtaposition of pace affects consistency, displacing the listener in the process; but this is part of Kestrels’ appeal as a musically non-conforming ensemble.
While ‘Ace’ fails to inspire, it acts as the perfect background song for the drive home after the long workday; its vocals again drawn out peacefully, and nicely accompanied by a high-pitched guitar solo echoing the mid nineties. Disappointingly, ‘Wide Eyes’ struggles to engage; its music fast-paced while the lyrically repetitive chorus highlights its problematic structure. The song plays for a short 2m 04s – an indication of the band’s possible struggle to pen effective and meaningful lyrics, instead focussed on devising an interesting blend of chords and obscure instrumental solos.
The self-titled album gives more than it receives, with ‘Temples’ generously offering listeners an escape. Peck sings “lie awake at night. It’s too late…” before trailing off into a placid, introspective guitar solo sentimental of a child’s lullaby. It is lyrically ironic that they concluded the album with this song, beautifully lulling the listener into a state of slumber. Commendably, this song persuades the listener to hit ‘repeat’ before the track’s end, perhaps due to its safe distance from the tentative subgenre and astute acceptance of conventional nineties alt-rock structure.
Overall, Kestrels’ have recorded a consistent album, though dependent upon obscure melodies and varied instrumentalism. While it may not satisfy the majority, tranquility is undeniable, making this the perfect ‘background’ album. No need for lyrical comprehension; the music itself should be the main focus when giving this album a spin.