Release Date: Jun 30, 2017
Record label: Top Shelf Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
Not to be confused with a floppy-haired British skateboard enthusiast with a very similar name, Chicago duo Ratboys own faire is less 'SCUM' and more, hazy, intricate scuzz. 'GN' (the internet version of saying 'Good Night’, fyi) deals in various forms of loss, and near loss. Personal experiences meld interchangeably with Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan's reimaginings of other narratives, linked by the unrelenting iciness that invades almost every song beneath Ratboys' warm, vibrant melodies.
Ratboys' latest effort, GN, short for goodnight, is not quite the sleepy-time record that its name suggests. Instead, the Chicago-based group's sophomore album is an exercise in intimate storytelling, dabbling in both whimsical and sombre themes. Centered on the duo of vocalist-guitarist Julia Steiner and multi-instrumentalist Dave Sagan, Ratboys work under the guise of alt-country but bolster their sound using a few different tactics. On GN highlight "Elvis in the Freezer," Steiner laments the death of a cat amidst frothy country guitars with just enough crunch to balance out the slide guitar and wispy horns.
Led by founding members Julia Steiner and David Sagan, Ratboys began life as an acoustic duo, plugged in and expanded to a borderline raucous four-piece, then settled into a copacetic middle ground with their full-length debut, AOID, released in 2015. Two years later, as a quintet with a permanent trumpet player, they stick with a sauntering, country-fringed guitar pop, fleshing it out with instruments like pedal steel, violin, and accordion on their second full-length, GN. Often landing like a gentler, small-town cousin of the Breeders, it's a winsome match for Steiner's wispy vocal delivery and contemplative lyrics, combined with Sagan's impulsive guitar playing; distortion and the occasional guitar solo or wail of feedback keeps their sound drifting to sleep on a back porch swing.