It’s rare to come across someone this early in their career with such clear star potential but the incredibly unique ratbag have got it on their stellar debut EP.

Release date: December 8, 2023 | Mischief Records | TikTok | Instagram | Website

I’ve got a soft spot for the Kiwis. Lorde’s Pure Heroine is one of my favorite albums of all time and made me branch out my music taste when I was 13, and since then I’ve always had a real affinity for New Zealanders. Even beyond one of my favorite artists, I’ve still got a lot of BENEE stock, The Beths are dope, Unknown Mortal Orchestra are great, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings are in the running for most GOATed movies ever. The Kiwis have never let me down. After having listened to why aren’t you laughing?, the debut EP from New Zealand’s latest uber talent ratbag, they still never have.

Beyond just appealing to my affinity for New Zealand, ratbag have an incredibly unique sound and style going for them. Think Gorillaz crossed with the YouTube channel Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared and that’s kinda what ratbag’s aesthetic is. The band’s members and characters are centered around aspects of (real) frontwoman Sophie Brown, and has quickly gotten big on TikTok over the past year and grown a real audience.

As interesting as their aesthetic is, ratbag has just as much promise on the musical side. The closer for why aren’t you laughing? “rats in my walls” is heavily inspired by some of the more cathartic anthems from Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, especially Billie’s crescendoing “Happier Than Ever”. ratbag also uses background vocals in their work very similar to Billie’s style, although Sophie’s screechier delivery gives a unique and enjoyable flair that most of the pop clones can’t land (not that they can land the smoothness of the original either). The production is killer, there’s deadass some rats scratching and doing other various rat shit worked into the beat that help give the track a real uncomfortable vibe despite how catchy the delivery is throughout. “dead end kids” is some of the better pop-rock you’ll hear this year that moves quick but doesn’t rush with some great vocal delivery to keep up with how quick the song moves.

Lyrically, Sophie is far ahead of where comparable artists were at her age with a noticeably distinct style already. “rot in love” is one of my favorite tracks on the EP, I love the effects on the vocals and it really helps complement the tracks themes of borderline unhealthy obsession in a relationship – and also enhance the albums overall weird style. “exit girl” gives off some palpable claustrophobic and anxious vibes with a great pulsing beat, and the track uses repetition to help enhance the uncomfortableness of the subject incredibly well.

There’s a lot going on with ratbag conceptually, but in a way that a lot of artists that tend to really make it big have a lot going on. Sophie wears her influences on her sleeve and actually has the talent to do them justice – both musically and with the creative visual aesthetics. why aren’t you laughing? is an incredibly promising start for ratbag, with their first four songs clearly showing that the music can back up the concepts. 2023 didn’t have many better EP’s than this, and it certainly didn’t have any made by artists with this much star potential.

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