Free and legal MP3: The Deathray Davies

Reanimated indie rock

“Oh Stars” – The Deathray Davies

“Oh Stars” launches with an understated old-school backbeat, revolving around one insistent chord that recurs with “ta-da!”-like charm; the music sounds like the feeling of something marvelous about to happen. And in a subtle way it does; “Oh Stars” may not at first knock your socks off but it succeeds with a mature “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” poise. And, it clocks in at a tidy 2:53, which is less unusual than it used to be in a Spotify/TikTok world, but in the verse-chorus-verse universe this still indicates admirable restraint.

Front man and songwriter John Dufilho, meanwhile, himself employs an understated vocal style to match the established vibe; he could surely cut loose were he not in this contemplative mood, looking at the stars and pondering life. It ends up feeling a bit like a magic trick, how Dufilho creates substance out of almost nothing I can specifically point to. Maybe it’s his melancholy but determined tone, maybe it’s the way the sing-song-y melody complements the resolute flow, or maybe it’s something as basic but unexpected as the piano which grounds the song in a series of unfussy chords that seem to be hiding in plain sight–you won’t necessarily hear them until you listen for them.

If “Oh Stars” feels like a bit of a throwback, there’s good reason for it: the Dallas-based Deathray Davies were a project born in the late ’90s, with a heyday coinciding with the heyday of indie rock in the early to mid-’00s. “Oh Stars” comes from a new album, Time Well Wasted, released last month after what Dufilho has called “a 15-year nap.” The Deathray Davies leader hasn’t himself been napping in the meantime, having been busy through the years with a series of other Dallas area musical projects, including the bands Clifffs, Cantina, and Motorcade. He was also, as of the late ’00s, absorbed into the Athens, Georgia-based musical collective Apples in Stereo, a band that itself has mostly been on hiatus for 10 years or so as well.

You can listen to Time Well Wasted, and purchase it, via Bandcamp. The band was featured once before on Fingertips, way back in 2005.

Free and legal MP3: Ride (return of notable ’90s outfit)

A keen bit of melodic, reverb-y rock’n’roll from a reunited shoegaze pioneer.


“Charm Assault” – Ride

Once the youthful leaders of Britain’s burgeoning early-’90s shoegaze movement, the band Ride went dark in 1996, thanks to compounding acrimony between their two guitarist/vocalists, Andy Bell and Mark Gardener. But with age, often, comes perspective; in 2014, the band began playing together again. And now arrives the first recorded material from Ride in 21 years.

“Charm Assault” is a keen bit of melodic, reverb-y rock’n’roll, the noise inherent to Ride’s signature sound hinting at itself around the edges, but adroitly restrained. The verses are guided by a chiming, flowing guitar line; the chorus, punctuated by time-signature shifts, acquires a psychedelic vibe. At 2:37 we veer into an extended if unsettled break—50 seconds of subdued, droning guitar over an impatient high-hat that hadn’t otherwise made its presence known.

The song is also an unexpectedly pointed piece of political protest. The band is addressing the noxious pandering that led to Brexit but may as well be talking on behalf of caring and tolerant people the world over:

Your charm assault
Has scarred the world
It looks so ugly
As your lies begin to unfurl

That’s a somewhat optimistic take, of course; so far in this country, anyway, the people taken in by the “charm assault” (which hasn’t really been too charming) seem incapable of seeing either ugliness or lies when it comes to the words and behaviors exhibited by their preferred leader. But there has been much unfurling in any case.

“Charm Assault” is from the forthcoming album Weather Diaries, the band’s fifth, due out in June. MP3 courtesy of KEXP.