Oakland, California was something of a hotbed for noisy, scrappy guitar rock bands in the mid-2010s. Rays were formed by members of a bunch of those bands and instantly became one of the most high-profile bands on the scene. Their wiry, messy blend of New Zealand art pop, post-punk bite, and neo-psych sprawl caught the ear of the almost omniscient Trouble in Mind label, and the quartet's self-titled full-length debut hit the shelves in early 2017. Built around a ramshackle rhythm section that swings like a rusty car door, the dual-guitars-with-occasional-keyboard approach is a time-tested one. Listing all the bands that the foursome mix together to concoct their sound would take the rest of the day, so perhaps let it merely be said that they must have impressive record collections. Over the enthusiastically familiar musical backing, the vocals of guitarist Stanley Martinez and bassist Eva Hannan deliver an unschooled, unpracticed style that gives the songs an enjoyably primitive feel. Martinez is the more forceful of the two, more prone to storytelling like on "Back Downtown" or getting a little unhinged on some of the more uptempo songs. Hannan's efforts are a little less abrasive and her dusky tones carry melodies more easily, like on the rollicking "Gambler." There are times when the songs might work better with stronger vocalists, but the pair's energy and bravado carry them through the rough patches. Considering that the album is supposed to be rough and spiky, with producer Kelley Stoltz doing little to pretty up the sound and the bandmembers themselves playing like they were racing through each take like it was their first and last, it really doesn't matter much if any one aspect of the mix is a little ragged. Mostly it all comes together in exciting fashion, with songs like "Dead Mans Curve" and "Pain and Sorrow" coming off like lost Flying Nun singles and "Made of Shadows" and "Drop Dead" twitching like classic mid-'70s N.Y.C. punk, and the rest are hooky, jerky tunes that have lots of charm. It's a really good debut that shows lots of promise if they continue to work on developing their own style.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra