15 Great Albums You Probably Didn't Hear in 2017

Rolling Stone critics choose LPs that flew under the radar

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Ratboys, 'GN'
15
6/15

Ratboys, 'GN'

This Chicago band calls its sound "post-country" but "cuddlecore country" might be a better way to sum up their mix of friendly guitar swirl and cozy jangle and twang. Julie Steiner's songs are full of shakily proud unburdenings and fun imagination. The gently rocking "Molly" gets big points for being about a person, not a drug (even if the Molly in question sounds like a bit of both); on "Elvis in the Freezer" horns and steel guitars stripe a goodbye to a beloved family pet; and "Crying About the Planets" is Pavement-worthy guitarscaping with lyrics about an Antarctic explorer that serve as a casual metaphor for real-life peril and survival. A few songs here might've had a shot at alt-rock radio back in the old days but, like all the good neo-Nineties rock, GN reimagines that sound if bands back then never had to waste a second wondering if their dreams would eventually add up to owing some record company money. As Steiner sings on the dreamy, dyspeptic, Liz Phair-ian "Wandered," "rock & roll is my escape." Indeed, this works rock & roll's best myth: that the freedom to become whatever you are is all you're ever going to need. Jon Dolan

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