Quite definitely one of my favourite albums of this year thus far. Ratboys GN, just out, is one I waited for and one that lived up to all of my anticipation and more. Whether it'll make a splash in the big pop pond is probably doubtful but it's a better record than many that will.
Several of the tracks on here rank among the very best I've heard in recent months. Hailing from Chicago, and labeling their sound as Post-Country, Ratboys are two, vocalist Julia Steiner and multi-instrumentalist Dave Sagan and in GN, (as in Good Night), they've produced an album that is all calm liquid surface and murky bed depths. Much like going asleep and drifting into either dream or nightmare really.
The Post-Country moniker the band choose for themselves doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense to me personally, though it's always best for bands to pigeonhole themselves if they need to be pigeonholed at all. To me they sound Post-Kim Deal if they're anything, the album hints at all the most wonderful quiet moments of that woman's recording career from Pixies to This Mortal Coil to Breeders to Amps. I can also hear something of unjustly pretty much forgotten nineties outfit Madder Rose in the mix.
As for the songs, they hint at coldness and darkness and the band maintain a smart equilibrium between darkness and light, trapped forever between life's undoubted potential for threat and fear and its redeeming beauty and wonder. Occasionally Sagan lets rip, as if there's a need for all this pent up emotion and experience to be purged somehow. But for the most part, Ratboys veer towards the lower-end of the VU-needle volume-wise. As the album cover indicates, they know how to maintain an essential inner calm despite everything that we have already had and still might get thrown at us as part of life's rich pageant.
In terms of the lyrics, Crying About the Planets is typical, retelling the story of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson, (featured on this blog a few days back) and the desolation and loss of his 1912 Arctic Expedition. Find the lyrics here, if you're not moved, Ratboys are not for you. There are at least five others jostling with it in contention as the album's best. GN, a small but perfectly formed gem.