Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Ratboys infuse heart and determination into their buttery-smooth indie rock on The Window

"The Window"

Release date: 25 August 2023
Ratboys The Window cover
31 August 2023, 09:00 Written by Kyle Sager

If there’s one thing about Ratboys, it’s that they know their way around a guitar.

The band’s fifth album places them exactly where they want to be, nestled into the rich indie scene of America’s third largest city. The diverse tracks that make up The Window are consistent in both confidence and comfort; it’s the type of record that just sounds like Chicago, its astute self-awareness shining through. Just like the city they’re from, Ratboys know exactly who they are and don’t try to be something else. On their fourth record, their identity as musicians just oozes through the speakers. Ratboys have undoubtedly discovered their niche, and it's as cathartic as ever.

Though they’ve been making music for over a decade, it’s evident that Ratboys have grasped the ever-changing direction of the public’s appetite. At the same time, they’ve stayed true to their Midwestern roots - their country-folk edge feels natural and genuine. The lead single “Black Earth, WI” captures the band’s grandeur in full, a nine-minute banger as articulate and zany as Black Country New Road and as twangy and fuzzy as Wednesday. It’s almost as if this is what Ratboys were building up to all along, the culmination of their practice as musicians. A record like this comes across as a stroke of magic, given how hard it can be to craft a full-length project that succeeds both sonically and lyrically as a cohesive piece of art. Here, they’ve got it just right.

That magic of The Window is brought to life in its diversity. While still sticking to a central sound, the band branches out in nearly eleven different mini-directions, drawing on and emphasizing their strengths in the most ear-pleasing ways. Almost every track retains those classic crunchy guitars, always carefully manipulated to perfection, mind you, but between the pumping opener “Making Noise for the Ones You Love” to the gentle closer “Bad Reaction,” there’s a whole lot of masterful experimentation going on. “It’s Alive” churns and gurgles with its bright melodies and layers of guitar backings. “Empty” coincidentally almost comes off like the heavier, punkish younger sibling of Arcade Fire’s “Empty Room” as it keeps the beat with a plunky note on the piano. And “I Want You (Fall 2010)” is a catchy little dedication to the early days of burgeoning friendships, offering the heartwarming line “Let’s hang out forever starting now.”

Then there’s standout “Morning Zoo”, with its chug-a-lug country guitar-plucking and warm, sliding strings. Led by frontwoman Julia Steiner’s vocals, the song takes on a more grassy, youthful thrill. She asks the questions “But how long does it take / to find the peace that I want? / And how long must I wait / to decide that it's over? / Well, I don’t know.” It’s the emotional sincerity that runs through Steiner’s voice that often pulls you in. Paired with her lyricism, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

There’s heart and authenticity in what Ratboys have created with The Window, and evidently, it’s been done with precise care - they’ve been practising and perfecting the record since 2020. The band has proven themselves over and over again, recognising that while there are peaks along the way, artistic development takes a lot of time. But when you finally reach the level of brilliance you’ve been working toward for so long, The Window is exactly what it sounds like.

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