Kestrels is the brainchild of singer/guitarist Chad Peck and the trio is rounded out by Peck’s brother, bassist Devin Peck, and drummer Paul Brown. Recording of the new disc has been in-progress since 2010 and, to shake off writer’s block, Peck recorded additional material for the album in an unlikely place, the Manhattan apartment of Tim Wheeler, front-man/guitarist for seminal 90’s Irish indie band Ash. Wheeler, whom Peck cites as a defining influence on him as a musician and friend, adds a guitar solo on the track “Dumb Angel.”
The Brian Wilson reference (“Dumb Angel”) is indicative of the band’s multi-layered sound, which is then coupled with the dynamic ebbs and flows in intensity both within and between the different songs. While the album thematically shifts from vivid to ambiguous imagery, A Ghost History’s music too diversifies from bombastic sounding to more subdued overtones throughout. “There was definitely a intent to make it dynamic without sort of doing a typical Nirvana ‘loud, quiet, loud’ type of thing,” Peck explains. “There’s a definite flow to the album that I feel warrants repeat listening. It may be hard in a ‘singles’ culture to have a patiently paced album but it was important to me and for all of us to have that flow.”
The disc starts out strong with “Drowning Girl” which combines Peter Hook style bass-lines with stiff-backed drumming and some pretty cool guitar leads and roaring histrionics. The band goes follows this first track with “Dumb Angel” which has a big J. Mascis style guitar-grunge sound which builds in waves around ringing leads, melodic hooks and big harmonic choruses. “There All the Time Without You” is one of the disc’s strongest tracks (and it is also the first single) due to its strong musical hooks and harmonies. These songs are pretty indicative of the sound of this disc and the disc closes with “The Past Rests” which sounds like an exuberant Brit-pop number with big guitars and even bigger melodies. As much as these songs hit hard – the band hits the songs ever harder in their live set. Photos from the band’s show at Piano’s earlier this month follow the video.
The disc’s lyrics are almost buried beneath the band’s wall of melodic sound but are pretty introspective upon a deeper listen. Peck, who by trade is an English teacher for secondary school, was inspired lyrically for this album by 20th Century French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s essay "The Vital Illusion". “There’s a lot of reference to the past and memory in the lyrics of the new album. The ghost part in the album title isn’t really about ghosts like Casper or anything. It was just more about the phantoms in my memory. The people that I remember, are they actually how they were or have I created some new personality or new memory of them that wasn’t there to begin with?”
Kestrels are one of those bands that you should see soon as they will be quickly be on to playing bigger venues. In the interim, hopefully there will be another club tour in the Fall.