The group builds upon their 2015 debut (‘AOID’) with superior lyricism and additional musical textures while presenting a delectable “more-country-than-country” sound
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Guided by Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan, Chicago-based quartet Ratboys pairs melodic post-country tunes with sweet ‘n’ sour storytelling about deceased pets, feral German children, and a bevy of other subjects on their sophomore release ‘GN’. On this album, which is also known as ‘goodnight’, the group builds upon their 2015 debut (‘AOID’) with superior lyricism and additional musical textures while presenting a delectable “more-country-than-country” sound overall. Indeed, whereas contemporary mainstream country is essentially pop music with a hint of twang, Ratboys achieves considerable success by filtering an Americana aesthetic through a DIY lens.
Album opener ‘Molly’ finds Steiner struggling to learn how to demonstrate affection to the titular character through fantastic, mythical adventures over buzzing guitars. Following its jangling progression, a guitar solo melts away as Steiner melodically croons “I just want to love my family / Hold my shelter and lie in the cemetery / I just want to hold you, Molly” to close the tune. Follow-up track — and instant fan-favorite — ‘Elvis Is in the Freezer’ recalls Steiner‘s memories of putting down a family cat. While the content here may bring listeners to tears, the care-free country delivery hints at brighter skies and warmth. Musically, Ratboys‘ rustic influences are apparent on ‘Elvis’ as Cody Owens‘s contribution on trumpet complements Sagan and Steiner‘s riffs surprisingly well.
The focal point throughout ‘GN’ is the pairing of Steiner‘s gentle voice with varying musical textures. Although Steiner would seem more likely to appear on an album like Charly Bliss‘s ‘Guppy’, Ratboys refuse to pigeonhole themselves into any particular category. ‘Westside’ touches upon lazy psychedelia recalling Courtney Barnett‘s ‘Lance Jr.’ and ‘Small Poppies’ while ‘Control‘ threatens to jump off the rails with Danny Lyons’s frenetic drumming propelling the tune’s rural surf rock vibrations.
Overall, ‘GN’ is not an instant-classic album with a plethora of go-to tracks, but rather consists of several solid songs. Aided by subtle touches, such as Steiner‘s closing lines on ‘The Record’ or back-and-forth guitars on ‘Crying about The Planets’, the album offers numerous ‘a-ha’ moments that ought to draw in the discerning listener. With its fusion of indie country, modest grunge, and shoegazey psychedelia, ‘GN’ represents a considerable step forward from Ratboys, and hints at greater success in the future.