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Ratboys take a leisurely trip over the border to ‘Black Earth, WI’

The flow of new music is constant and occasionally overwhelming. On First Listen helps you (and us) keep up by sharing our initial reactions to the latest releases.

Everyone has at least one “Is the world crazy or am I?” band or artist. Every time you listen to their stuff, you wonder why they haven’t blown up yet. Ratboys is one of those bands for me.

This week, they put out yet another song that both delighted me and made me want to run up and down the street shaking people by the lapels asking, “DO YOU LISTEN TO RATBOYS??? WHY NOT????”

Besides being really good musically, the new single from the Chicago outfit has the added delight of being titled after a little village 37 minutes west of Madison. “Black Earth, WI” (the single, not the village) at points feels like a pleasant stroll and head-bobbing guitar rocker and fist-pumping singalong and then back to the stroll again.

If that sounds like a lot, well, the track clocks in at 8+ minutes. But don’t let that scare you off. It transitions from one section to the next at just the right time, making the whole thing whip by faster than its runtime suggests. Not enough to pique your interest? Try this quote from frontwoman Julia Steiner about the degree of difficulty in recording the song:

“We recorded ‘Black Earth, WI’ live off the floor in Seattle last year at the amazing Hall of Justice, and it was our first time recording straight to tape,” she recalled. “We had to be conscious of how many takes we could fit onto a reel, but lucky for us, take two was the one.”

Yeah it was. May this be a harbinger of more new music coming soon from the Chicago outfit.