Ratboys' Julia Steiner: Five Essential Albums

Ratboys (Photo byAlexa Viscius, PR)
by Kara Manning | 03/05/2024 | 11:00am

Ratboys (Photo byAlexa Viscius, PR)

With the release of 2023's The Window, Ratboys' fourth album, the Chicago-bred band is having a big moment. Working with producer Chris Walla, the quartet uncovered a richer vein to mine on The Window, expanding from their indie folk 'n' post-country rock sound to a breezy crescendo of songs built from grungy blasts of guitar ("Making Noise for the Ones You Love"),  twangy sighs ("It's Alive"), and shimmering, simmering pop grooves ("Morning Zoo"). Singer, guitarist, and lyricist Julia Steiner has never sounded more powerful in her storytelling — the heartbreaking tale of her grandparents, told in "The Window," is a moving testament of Covid-era anguish and loss.

The Window cantered across many critics' fave-of-the-year lists of last year and in 2024, Ratboys are spending a lot of time on the road, including a spring and summer tour supporting The Decemberists beginning April 30 in Kingston. They'll head downstate to play the Brooklyn Paramount on May 3 and 4.

It's a much-deserved new era for Ratboys, and for FUV's "Women We Love" series, we asked Julia to write about "Five Essential Albums" that hold a special place in her heart:

Ratboys' Julia Steiner: Five Essential Albums

Shania Twain, Come On Over
This album was everywhere when I was a kid in the mid-to-late '90s, and I think it might have been my first “favorite album.” Maybe I didn’t realize it then, but, looking back, I think this album first taught me that pop music is catchy and popular, and all those things, because it often involves really great songwriting. And, what’s more, that a great song can feel that much stronger when the writer herself is the one belting it out.

Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca
This is one of the albums that Dave [Sagan, Ratboys' guitarist] and I both loved and bonded over when we met in 2010. The experimental vocal harmonies and (to my ear) downright cosmic guitar patterns throughout the record blew my mind when I first heard it and hold up so well today. It’s amazing that something can sound so lovable and so beyond belief at the same time.

Julie Doiron, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day
I miss the days when you could actually discover new music on YouTube, when things weren’t monetized to hell and the “related videos” had the potential to take you on a real trip. That’s how I found Julie Doiron, while I was down a YouTube rabbit hole on a 2012 afternoon, and I immediately fell in love with her down-to-earth songwriting and storytelling. It feels like talking with an old friend, and it makes me feel totally content.

Yes, The Yes Album
Dave let me borrow this CD when we first met (I still have it, sorry!), and it quickly became one of my favorite albums ever. Beyond the insane technicality and the surprising catchiness of all of the songs, I love how earnest and fullhearted the performances are. No one is holding back, the drama is high, and the vibes are FUN. Turns out, that’s the kind of music I wanna make!

Tancred, Out of the Garden
Power pop (catchy, upbeat, guitar-driven music) is a genre that I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate over the past 10 years or so, and this is one of the greatest power pop albums of our generation. I love how the sugary hooks play off of the raw and often dark lyrics – it makes me feel delirious in the best way. This album feels like an invitation to join the almighty quest: to write a perfect power pop song. And, hey, it’s always a good time to try.

- Julia Steiner of Ratboys
March 2024

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