Bandcamp Picks of the Week is back and better than ever
Kestrel – DREAM OR DON’T DREAM
Genre: Slacker, Shoegaze
Favorite Tracks: “Grey and Blue,” “A Way Out,” “Say Less”
Admittedly, Kestrel’s DREAM OR DON’T DREAM was passed my way because our music editor knows I’m a J Mascis man. He suggested I check out the lead single “Grey and Blue” and upon seeing that it was track two, I decided to live dangerously and run it front to back. Upon hearing opener “Vanishing Point,” my ears were blasted by that thick wall of distortion, pounding drums, and the dreamy, affected vocals of band leader Chad Peck, who goes on to lay down a scorching solo of his own that is definitely worthy to sit next to Mascis’ legendary fretwork. Who the hell are Kestrels, and why haven’t I heard of them? Turns out the Nova Scotian rock act is the brainchild of Peck, and they’ve been releasing some seriously solid shoegaze music since 2009. DREAM OR DON”T DREAM is their fourth full-length since that time, and the first offering from Peck following the dissolution of the band’s original lineup. Picking up the bass duties himself and enlisting the help of drummer Michael Catano, Peck has crafted a collection of songs built on fuzz-soaked, guitar-driven hooks that will have you reaching for your own air axe to play along on. The record sounds huge and intricately layered thanks to the mixing of John Agnello, who’s resume includes records from Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, and, not surprisingly, Dinosaur Jr. The guitar and pedal work on DREAM OR DON’T DREAM is aggressive, but still warm. Songs like “A Way Out” envelop in a swell of hypnotic chords and vocal harmonies, but also leave room for a pair of blistering solos to break through to front and center—in a time where it always feels like there is always a shortage of great guitar solos, Kestrel’s are most welcome and appreciated. You can check out DREAM OR DON’T DREAM on Noyes Records this Friday, and grab a copy over on the band’s Bandcamp then. [Jake Mazon]
Vile Creature – GLORY! GLORY! APATHY TOOK HELM
Genre: Doom Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Harbinger of Nothing,” “Glory, Glory!,” “Apathy Took Helm”
From the opening screams of “Harbinger of Nothing,” the tone of GLORY, GLORY! APATHY TOOK HELM is instantly set. This is an album about cresting crushing waves of nihilism and depression, about fighting the krakens that invade the depths of our minds and tell us to give up. The two-piece experimental doom band from Ontario have truly outdone themselves with this wonderful five-track record, a gorgeous, expansive opus to finding the dignity at the bottom of our private wells of despair. As it becomes clearer every day that we are only at the beginning of our age of turmoil, art like this is the only thing that can give any of us the strength to keep waking up and facing another day.
Despite the obviously ostentatious leanings of this album, it’s also just so plainly a labor of exuberance and love. From the wonderfully provocative cover, to the band’s retrowave website, to the eclectic and silly merch (pre-orders of the album came with custom-made gummy worms), it’s very clear that this couple takes their work exactly seriously enough to make it inviting rather than off-putting. There’s no macho posturing to Vile Creature, there’s just an excitement at the ability to make things at all, a joy that’s clearly reflected in the music itself.
The latter half of the record, with sprawling choral arrangements and poignant lyrics about accepting your own mortality is an achievement that so rarely comes in heavy metal. For a genre that is defined by its relationship to nihilism, it often can be defeatist to a fault. Yet, at its very best, heavy metal can be an outlet to confront nihilism, to embrace and accept our loneliness in an uncaring universe, and come out the other side kinder and more compassionate. It doesn’t serve any of us well to shrink away from how bad things truly are, but figuring out how to endure them makes us more resilient. If you want to bask in everything GLORY! GLORY! has to offer, you can do so by checking it out on Bandcamp. [Carter Moon]