Rad Releases 20 – Kestrels
It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2020 rapidly approaches and we quickly want to move away from this year- we take a personal look back on familiar names, labels, promoters, and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a challenging year for all, the one constant has been how artists and their labels have adapted and produced some of the best records of our time and it’s those releases that have the audience has depended on to get them through the year.
This year the Rad Releases special celebrates 10 years, to mark the decade-long feature we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have kept them going throughout this trying year. Telling us how they’ve adapted, if they’ve returned to a loved record and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Regardless of the uncertainty and pain that this year has bought to us all, one thing that’s been a constant is the abundance of incredible music that we have connected ourselves to. In the summer of this year, we were introduced to the sounds of Kestrels. Although late to the party at discovering this outfit, they personally arrived at the right time. On July 10th via Darla Records, Kestrels the supercharged shoegaze rockers released their incredible fourth full-length album. Dream or Don’t Dream is a must-hear as the band have created such a compelling release, with uplifting roots, this is a tonal treasure. The release is a purely sonic exploration that consumes you- this enthralling new arrangement is dynamic, driving, and incredibly desirable. We chat to the band to find out more about their year in music…
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
This was probably my most anticipated record this year. I found her first album through a tweet, as one does in the internet age. It was a big favourite and Punisher was an incredible followup. People who take themselves too seriously can be a little precious in their songwriting and I like that Phoebe weaves in some humour (“some America first rap country song”) among the heaviness. Without the contrast it doesn’t work as well.
The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers
Also a second record (I think). This one isn’t as immediate as their first LP, but I enjoy a good slow burn. There are so many hooks on this record and it sounds great on the stereo in my station wagon. The title track is one of my favourite tracks of 2020. The Beths seem like really nice and fun people. That counts for something.
Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques
I’m just going to say it: Post-Pavement Malkmus has, on average, made better records than Pavement Malkmus. The run he’s currently on is wild and varied and I can’t get enough of it. This is how you make compelling music after your wild and youthful 20s. “Amberjack” brings a tear to my eye — “If you leave me, please return / I’m still into watching bridges burn”. So good. I hope to catch him on the tour for this record when and if it happens.
Norma MacDonald – Old Future
Norma is my partner and sang some excellent harmonies on our record (biases exposed). I’ve listened to this record a lot — it was at the top of my “most played” in Spotify for 2020. I’m pretty into sincerity in music and way less into contrivance (I guess everything’s contrived to a degree, but you know what I mean), and in an era where people are committed to being empty vessel content generators, a record like this, full of heart and incredible talent, just feels like relief for the soul. Sincere and intelligent with no saccharine edges. Go get this record right now. Favourite track: “Some Days”.
Sci Flyer – The Illusion of Unlimited Choice
Sci Flyer are label mates and released this record the same day as ours. James at Darla Records sent me an advance stream of this and it just felt so inviting right out of the gate. There’s an almost philosophical approach to production that I both understand and aspire to. Great sleeve, as well.
The best show you have played this year / gig attended (if you had the opportunity at the start of the year)
All of our touring plans were cancelled, which was rough. Dinosaur Jr had a livestream a few weeks ago that was excellent — a few great new songs, drone footage, J Mascis wearing something from that Supreme x My Bloody Valentine collaboration.
Has there been any record that’s got you through this year?
All of the LPs listed above. As well, Karen Dalton’s In My Own Time, Land of Talk’s Life After Youth and Snail Mail’s Lush felt like comfort in a pretty fucked up year. The Blink-155 podcast (which is about music…sort of) was also a big weekly highlight. They recently rebranded to 155 to talk about bands other than Blink-182 and it’s as good as ever. I don’t think I’ve listened to a Blink-182 song in 15 years but these two Canadian media dudes are funny and charming and thought-provoking.
How have you adapted with releasing/recording/promoting during this year?
Like everyone, social media. I might do a solo livestream at some point, but those seem a little played out right now. I’ve been going over the guitars/amps/pedals/etc that I used on the record on our Instagram (@kestrelsband) and Facebook (facebook.com/kestrels) and people have been enjoying that deep dive. Basically trying to influence people, subtly or otherwise, to hit like, share, follow, buy now, etc. Vote with your dollars — it matters.
Best discovery this year?
As this is our 10th year of Rad Releases, we want to look back on your 10 years- has there been on standout moment/standout record of the past 10 years for you?
My Bloody Valentine – mbv — Incredible record. I saw them on that tour and it reoriented me in the world. I got to meet the band after the show as well — a big highlight of the decade.
Artist/Band to watch for 2021
A few friend’s bands are working on stuff right now — I’m really into this Halifax band Designosaur and think they’ll have a cool record out in the new year.
Plans for the New Year
We’re working on a special release right now. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play the Dream or Don’t Dream songs live at some point — the few times we were able to play live, the songs translated really well. I’ve also started demoing the next record. It’s good to be busy.
Thank you so much and for such a brilliant record!