Sound & Vision with Good Looks

After completing this feature, we learned the sad news that Good Looks’ guitarist, Jake Ames, was hit by a vehicle following the group’s sold out show that celebrated their album release, and is now in hospital starting his road to recovery. If you would like to support Jake, you can donate to a GoFundMe page set up for him herewhich will go towards the costs of his medical bills.

All hailing from small Texan towns, the members of Good Looks continue riffing on the complexity of the ‘Southern Thing’ first tackled by The Drive By Truckers on their Southern Rock Opera. And despite sounding quite different, the shared love of country roots and big rock choruses is apparent on their immaculate debut, Bummer Year. Wrestling with the conflict between the right and left, creativity and commerce, that is omnipresent in America’s south, the group – led by Tyler Jordan – also tap into the well of humanity beneath the surface of each individual. 

We caught up with Jordan to find out more about the music, films and books that have shaped him, and found their influence ebb into Bummer Year. These are his Sound & Vision Picks:

Three favourite albums:

The Infinites – Self-titled

Nearly no one outside of Austin has heard this record and that’s a goddamn travesty.  At the time of writing, none of the songs on this album have over 10,000 plays on Spotify.  This is their origin story, secondhand and most likely misremembered. Dan Levine would often perform solo guitar loop sets around town. Jared Leibowich was a big fan and asked if Dan would send him a recording of his loops, and Dan did. A couple of weeks later, Jared reached out to Dan and said, ‘Hey man, I know this is weird, but I put words and melodies over the top of all of these songs.’ Dan showed his wife what Jared had done and she said, ‘You know, you have to be in a band with this guy right?! This is incredible!’

The results are one of the greatest albums that the Austin rock n roll scene has ever produced, and nobody fucking knows about it. We don’t live in a meritocracy and often the greatest bands never leave their hometowns or receive the praise they deserve. That’s terrible and beautiful all at the same time. Bands and people exist for but a moment, and then disappear, so tell your friends you love them and go see local bands. This record rules and these guys are heroes! I hope you love it as much as I do.

Frank Ocean – Blonde

It seems cosmically unfair that Frank Ocean has one of the most achingly beautiful voices of all time and is also such a superb songwriter. I had heard a few of the singles off Channel Orange, but had never really given Frank Ocean a fair listen. I didn’t listen to this record until March 2020. Pitchfork named it the number one album of the 2010s, and I’m inclined to agree. I was in a band with my girlfriend at the time – just before the pandemic hit.  We had a fully booked tour for April, but like everybody else’s plans, it all fell apart. The day that all of the dates got cancelled, my girlfriend broke up with me. I was just wrecked.

Blonde was this audial life preserver tossed to me at just the right moment. I remember taking these long showers, putting this record on, and crying for hours. At the end of the year, all of my top songs were just this record in order from first to last. Sonically beautiful, lyrically immaculate, incredibly performed and just a perfect record. If you’ve somehow put off listening to this record like I had, don’t wait another minute to go put it on.

Pixies – Doolittle

I remember downloading this album track by track on Kazaa until I had the whole thing. I accidentally downloaded this slowed-down alternate version of Wave of Mutilation, and the regular one still sounds weird to me. My parents were super religious, so I did a lot of my musical exploration while they were out of the house. I remember trying to make my voice sound exactly like Frank Black’s on Debaser, screaming along until I had shouted myself completely hoarse. My parents got back home and asked, ‘What happened to your voice?’ I lied, ‘I don’t know!? I think I’m getting sick or something,’ haha. Then the first concert I was able to talk my parents into letting me go to was the first Pixies’ reunion tour in 2004. I think maybe Surfer Rosa is a better record, but Doolittle was the first one for me, and will always be my favourite.

Favourite film:

Without Getting Killed or Caught

I wouldn’t say this is my favorite movie of all time, but I really enjoyed this documentary about Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, and Townes Van Zandt. It’s mostly based on Susanna Clark’s diary entries and interviews from their inner circle of close songwriting friends like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell. The real gold in this movie is the homemade cassette tape recordings of conversations of all the songwriters mentioned above. I’ve always wondered what it might be like to be in the room for some of those conversations, and this movie gives you the opportunity. It was really cool to see into the lives of some of my favourite songwriters.

Favourite book:

Grapes of Wrath

I’m a big Steinbeck guy. This might be the greatest book by any American author. Steinbeck really gets to the ugly underbelly of American capitalism during the Great Depression. We had enough food to feed everybody, yet folks were going hungry, and how the hell is this still happening?! He really simply and poetically describes how the system functions and how it’s a machine that can’t be stopped from devouring the most vulnerable populations, while at the same time telling the story of the Joad family, poor tenant farmers, that are forced to move west during the Dustbowl of the 1930s. He alternates from the micro to the macro with every other chapter. It’s an enthralling novel, with poignant political commentary that’s sadly still very applicable today. 

A song that means a lot to you:

Townes Van Zandt – To Live Is To Fly

‘Days, up and down they come

Like rain on a conga drum

Forget most, remember some

But don’t turn none away.

Everything is not enough

And nothin’ is too much to bear.

Where you been is good and gone

All you keep is the getting there.’

This is one of my favourite verses of all time. It’s at once playful, profound, and somehow gets to the meaning of life in eight short lines. As Steve Earle once said, ‘Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.’ I don’t think anyone has put their sadness into a song as well as Townes has. He’s the best to ever do it. If you’ve never listened to Townes, this song is the place to start.

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