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There aren’t many musical collaborations you could cook up that would grab my attention harder than one that dropped this weekend. I’m talking about the collision of Priests, the D.C. punk band responsible for my favorite album of 2017, and U.S. Girls, Meg Remy’s experimental pop project responsible for my favorite album of 2018 (so far). The two came together for a new EP that sports an extended cut and two remixes of Priests’ Nothing Feels Natural closer, “Suck.” The original version is a bassy dance-punk jam in the James White And The Blacks mold, all spindly guitars and hints of sax riding an army of percussion. In Remy’s hands, the track isn’t so much remixed as rebuilt completely. Katie Alice Greer’s vocals are slowed to a husky crawl and she’s never allowed to deliver her savage punchlines. Instead, she melts into a loop with a simple drum-machine beat and what sounds like a bass clarinet (borrowed from the extended mix), laying down a hypnotic backbone for a cacophony of psychedelic noodling. [Matt Gerardi]
Currently on tour in Europe, Ratboys can’t get back to the States soon enough for my taste. Last year saw the release of GN, a smart and affecting album of arty Americana rock that boldly upended typical alt-country conventions by getting more experimental and harder-edged, adding distorted crunch and shoegaze flourishes with savvy songwriting construction. I saw them perform several times following GN’s release, and each time revealed a band that was growing into a confident and charismatic live act, centered around Julia Steiner’s guitar and genteel, unadorned voice smuggling darkness and depths into the music via her sunny delivery.
A couple months ago, and with little fanfare, Ratboys released GL—a four-song EP of tracks left over from the GN sessions—directly to Bandcamp. Most bands would kill for their album-opening tracks to be half as good as Ratboys’ remnants. The songs showcase the group’s increasing strength in uptempo rockers, something already demonstrated on GN but cranked up even more so here. Sure, there’s still the swaying rhythms of a Nashville nightclub in “You’ve Changed,” and a muted honky-tonk groove to “Figure,” both of which go somewhere more unusual and expansive than the initial riffs suggest. But it’s the opening and closing songs that really emphasize the potential of the group’s evolving sound. “GL” is a fantastic truck-driving ramble, one of the catchiest things the band has done yet. “I am gravity—hey fucker, I’m talking to you,” Steiner practically spits, the sweetness of the vocal melody belying the bite of its meaning. And “After School,” with its spare and understated beginning, almost teases a bedtime-story ballad, with Steiner recounting a night gone wrong, until nearly two minutes in, when the rhythm starts to amble with agreeably mellow vibes, and suddenly it erupts—a feedback-laden transition into four-on-the-floor rock aided by some judiciously applied trumpet blasts. I’d urge you to check them out on tour, but I’m selfishly hoping they stick around Chicago for awhile to do some local gigs; it always feels like an open-to-all, welcome-wagon of a party when they play. [Alex McLevy]