December 6, 2016

Split: Ratboys / Dowsing

Ratboys delivers poetic metaphors on their split with Dowsing.

Ratboys, self-described as “post-country," offers up a lighthearted yet poetic contribution to their new split EP with fellow Chicago band Dowsing. The smooth sweetness of Julia Steiner’s voice contradicts beautifully with the bitter metaphors that she sings about, all while lightly distorted guitars pick at folky riffs. On "Not Again," Steiner’s vocals enter immediately, boldly comparing our descendants to fallen stars. The drummer proudly taps away on the rim of his snare, setting up the energy and introspection of the song before the rest of the instruments eagerly arrive. "Not Again" describes a feeling that has lingered with all of us at one point or another; some twisted combination of nostalgia and pointlessness that revisits us from a more conflicted time. “My teenage energy would take a thousand shapes,” she admits in a reflective and quiet tone. “But now it’s not back then!,” she triumphantly realizes as we snap back into the present. The guitar solo that begins as Steiner’s words end mimics her vocal melody and then builds on the intensity by adding a harmonizing line. All of the hesitation and anxiety in the lyrics are replaced by the bounciness and power of the music, pushing the song forward instead of keeping us dwelling on dark emotions of the past.

Ratboys' second song on the split, "Light Pollution," is a reflection on the impossibility of ignoring one’s problems. While the beginning of the song recommends taking an exotic trip, anyone who has tried to escape knows it’s impossible to get away from your troubles for very long. Inevitably, Steiner’s own troubles catch up with her. She uses violent metaphors like, “words written in our own skulls” and “playing catch with invisible grenades” to dramatically describe the clear warnings she sees and the playful ignorance she chooses instead. The chorus builds as Steiner tries to convince herself that “there’s nothing wrong,” a lie that we use to reassure ourselves on a regular basis. She looks a little deeper within herself, and then to the world around her, but she notices that “too many stars...have changed the sky.” The instruments pause, and then come back in together with a crash as Steiner prepares to deliver the song’s hardest-hitting lines. Steiner is the queen of using space and the outdoors to describe herself. This time, she uses these stars and the light pollution that blocks her view to talk about her own desire to conceal what overwhelms her. The twangy and fuzzy guitar effects give this song a laid-back feel, reminiscent of calm eighties country tunes. The light swing of the steady riffs masterfully complements the song's ominous lyrics, suggesting that sometimes concealing problems with a bit of lightheartedness goes a long way.


Listen to Ratboys on bandcamp.

Brianna Peterson plays awkward pop punk country in a band called Cooper!, loves everything outdoors and Twin Peaks, and is painfully torn between being a dog or a cat person.