There's somewhat of a paradox inherent in Vundabar's songwriting - a conflicting sense of nostalgia contrasted with the realization that they couldn't sound more current. The music they make feels like something that should have been heard a long time ago, while simultaneously continuing to forge ahead sonically. Vundabar's high energy live show is the stand out quality of this band and is an art they’ve undoubtedly perfected by touring non-stop around the country. Vundabar’s shows never fail to be captivating, complete with infectious jams, guitar moves galore, intricate drum work, and humorous stage banter to top it all off, the band has become known for putting on an entertaining show.
Born out of fierce friendship and a mutual affection for melody, Chicago͛s Ratboys – anchored by the partnership of Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan – aims to ͚write songs that tell stories and honor the intimacy of memory,͛ according to Steiner. GN, the group͛s second full-length album via Topshelf Records, offers a bevy of tales, laments and triumphs, which recount near-tragedies by the train tracks, crippling episodes of loneliness, remembrances of a deceased family pet with freezer burn, and on and on. The songs shift and breathe as worlds all their own, tied together by the group͛s self-proclaimed ͚post-country͛ sound, which combines moments of distortion and a DIY aesthetic with a devotion to simple songwriting and ties to the Americana sounds of years past. Drawing influence from the down-to-earth sincerity of late-90s Sheryl Crow and the confessional confidence of Kim Deal and Jenny Lewis, the songs on GN (aka ͚goodnight͛) ͞largely detail experiences of saying goodbye, finding your way home, and then figuring out what the hell to do once you͛re back,͟says Steiner. The songs chosen to close both sides of the record – the slow-burning ͚Crying About the Planets͛ and quizzical ͚Peter the Wild Boy͛– unpack the respective journeys of two real people who were quite literally lost and found. ͚͛Crying͛ tells the survival story of Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson from a first-person perspective, and ͚Peter͛ reflects on the life of a feral child in Germany who was eventually adopted by the King of England,͛ according to Steiner. ͚Writing as and about these people is the best way I can attempt to empathize with them and really just wrap my mind around these bits of history that otherwise might not get talked about. And it helps me understand my own experiences a little bit better,͛ she says. Certain personal stories – the tour adventures recapped in ͚GM,͛ the struggle to learn to show affection as divulged in ͚Molly͛– find Ratboys just as eagerly exploring subject matter that comes from within, and then illustrating the highs and lows with soaring hooks and plaintive ones. Even in the moments that lie somewhere between bliss and misery, a tension persists between Steiner͛s sweet vocal delivery and Sagan͛s physical, almost-off-the-hinges guitar playing that lends each song a deeper sense of color and movement. Steiner and Sagan felt the impulse to make music together from the get-go – they first met as university students, quickly put out an EP together, and started performing as an acoustic two-piece in dorm rooms and backyards. During the next few years, the friends traveled separately, eventually reunited, and recorded what would become the first Ratboys record, AOID, which the folks at GoldFlakePaint describe as ͚a gleaming, joyous, raucous display of melodic indie-rock.͛After a year and a half of touring the US and Europe as a plugged-in full band (featuring the additions of drums, bass, and trumpet), the members of Ratboys returned to Chicago and holed up at Atlas Studios for two weeks to record with engineer Mikey Crotty (who had previously worked with the group on the songs ͚Not Again͛ and ͚Light Pollution͛). ͚This time around, we were lucky enough to feature the talents of friends who play the pedal steel, accordion, cello and violin to give the songs an extra something,͛ says Steiner. ͚Dave finally got to show off his ridiculous skills on the pocket piano, and the whole thing felt like one big loving experiment.͛
Those good times and long days yielded the 10 songs that make up GN, which Evan Hall of Pinegrove calls ͚a delectable chapter in the Ratboys story.'
Goon is the project of LA-based musician and visual artist Kenny Becker. With a medical condition that periodically deadens his sense of smell and hearing, Becker began writing songs as a means of making the most of his life when those symptoms were absent. The results, Dusk of Punk, are a murky blend of smoldering guitars, melodic hooks, and batter-ram rhythms that serve as the musical translations of a mind that’s routinely betrayed by its own body.
Their debut EP Dusk of Punk pushes the boundaries of standard “lo-fi” music with both it’s diversity in songwriting and it’s somehow incredibly layered composition. The production is lo-fi but incredibly full and lush sounding. Their songs are loud and fuzzed out but are anchored down by beautiful harmonies. Even acoustic based songs are rounded out by delicate synths, drum machines or the occasional radio sample. The end result is a diverse and incredibly complex record that evolves with each listen.