Ratboys – Printer’s Devil

It’s hard to put a finger on Printer’s Devil’s sound, each song is its own concoction that’s a puzzle to put into words. Their bandcamp page lists them as alternative, but that would be too broad, folk would not tell half of the story and the post-country in it is very subtle that you have to zoom in to hear the twang. 

But no matter what it is, Ratboys’ third album sets them off into new electrifying horizons. Still at the heart of every track is Julia Steiner’s voice, soft and tender at its core, the instruments dance around her as they go from loud and heavy guitar-driven jams to serene acoustic ballads that you could listen to on your trip to the countryside.

The opening track “Alien With a Sleep Mask On” is a banging opener that kicks in the door. The aggressive power chords and catchy hooks make way for Julia’s ethereal high-pitched voice, as she sings about self-doubt, wrapped up in witty science-fiction imagery. 

“My Hands Grow” is a stripped down, almost-acoustic song with an air of otherworldly charm. Steiner’s vocals are soothing, and each line is poetry. The song in its entirety has a timeless Americana feel, the lead guitar riffs give it a more modern twist, taking us to a ride from the snow-peaked mountains to the tall buildings in the city.

The trip doesn’t end as we slow down in “A Vision”. A folk and dreamy soundscape with minimal elements. The vocals are intertwined with ghostly synths and a simple fingerstyle pattern. Perfect for slowing down the day with a cup of chamomile tea.

“Anj” is brimming with exuberance, with sauntering hooks and sweeping riffs. Julia shows her appreciation for someone as she repeats “You’re not alone / I’m not alone”. 

“Victorian Slum House” follows the lifespan of a film set as it is put up then broken down. The changes in each section make this a real treat to listen to, with guitar parts meshing to a swaggering rhythm, it moves from rockabilly twang to an off-the-wall overdriven cacophony. 

The mood shifts again in “Clever Hans”, a slow burning song about a break up. The vocals are calm and serene, alternating with guitars that tear it down with rage and disappointment. Like a scalding fizzle in the midst of Julia’s smoothly drizzling voice, they take turns in painting the picture as Julia repeatedly sings “But, you’ve gone away”.

The title track “Printer’s Devil” has a hot and cold, call-and-response quality that engulfs it and accurately represents the whole collection. It’s themes of opposites encapsulate the album’s capability to move from quiet to heavy and back again.   

The variation of styles around Printer’s Devil is a testament to Ratboy’s sonic confidence as they come in strong with their third album. As the styles diverge with every track, the one constant is Steiner’s voice and songwriting ability. Her witty use of metaphor and penchant for infusing storytelling to each song is a highlight of the whole album, and a treat for those who listen closely. 

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