Good Looks Slay the Sophomore Slump on Lived Here For A While

The Austin, Texas rock quartet showcase their versatile melodic sensibilities, while deploying guitar parts that sound like they’ll scorch your skin one second and slash it the next, on their second LP.

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Good Looks Slay the Sophomore Slump on Lived Here For A While

On Good Looks’ excellent 2022 album Bummer Year, the band’s primary creative force, Tyler Jordan, pointed his mighty songwriting pen at a number of familiar frustrations: Heartbreak, of course, but also insecurity, disaffection, depression and fear, environmental anxiety, political division, financial uncertainty, the societal devaluation of art and the crushing weight of capitalism in the 21st century. Gifted with an ability to write about these topics in a way that feels particularly warm and empathetic—and even inspirational—Jordan emerged from Bummer Year’s long-tailed hype cycle as a songwriter on the rise—pretty rare for a guy in his mid-30s navigating the young man’s game of indie rock.

Now, Good Looks is back with a follow-up: Lived Here For A While, an open-hearted collection of tunes that find Jordan turning inward to examine his personal relationships more so than systemic issues. Across 10 tracks, he sings directly to an ex-girlfriend, his current girlfriend, childhood friends and his family, leaving very little to the imagination. (He pretty much sings about what he sees, he said in the band’s recent interview with Paste.) Gentrifiers and greedy real estate developers get songs, too, as if Jordan just can’t help himself. He is from Austin, Texas, after all.

His band’s sound has evolved, too. On Bummer Year, Good Looks were generally slower and a bit more subdued, with the ability to ramp up their roots-rock roar when needed—like when Jordan shouted “I would watch you drown!” at his bosses over and over again in “21,” a highlight of the album. On Lived Here For A While, the band moves more urgently, with bassist Harrison Anderson and drummer Phillip Dunne providing plenty of post-punk propulsion and Jake Ames wringing reams of reverberant melody, jagged noise and vaguely ‘80s vibes out of his guitar. Two years ago, Ames was unsure if he’d ever play music again after he was hit by a car and severely injured while on foot outside a venue in Austin. Thank goodness he recovered, because while Jordan is Good Looks’ centerpiece, Ames’ distinctive playing is the band’s secret weapon.

More than a few times, Good Looks’ music has been compared to that of classic rock icon Tom Petty; on Lived Here For A While, they sound more like Tom Petty fronting the Strokes at .75x speed. This combo comes through loud and clear on songs like album opener “If It’s Gone,” in which Jordan takes aim at a former partner, but also introduces two other recurring targets of his ire: his family (specifically his mother) and religion. “I don’t believe in Jesus, God or Buddha, or beyond,” he sings against the song’s motorik chug. “OK, a little bit in Buddha, trying to keep from hanging on.”

You can’t talk about Lived Here For A While without talking about Jordan’s mom, who shows up in at least three different tracks. Their relationship seems to be estranged (or at least distant) and he clearly wants to be closer to her, but not at the expense of himself: “Just know I miss you all the time, but I refuse to be unseen,” he sings in “Day of Judgment,” a mid-paced rejection of Christian fundamentalism. And in “Why Don’t You Believe Me?” he apologizes for not calling on her birthday before delivering this heartbreaking couplet as the song crescendos: “I still love you even when you fail me. You always fail me, it’s nothing new.”

Elsewhere, Good Looks largely keep their feet on the gas for searing post-punk songs like “Vaughn” (a love song) and “Self-Destructor” (a not-so-love song) and “Broken Body” (an apology to an old pal), as well as “White Out,” a rebuke of gentrification that proves the band is capable of producing a punchy groove if it wants to. In each of these tunes, Jordan showcases his versatile melodic sensibility, while Ames deploys guitar parts that sound like they’ll scorch your skin one second and slash it the next. Those two are not just best friends; they possess a uniquely potent musical alchemy that sits at the core of what makes Good Looks more than just another guitar-rock band, and Lived Here For A While so exhilaratingly expressive and cathartic.

Read our recent profile on Good Looks here.

Ben Salmon is a committed night owl with an undying devotion to discovering new music. He lives in Oregon and has been writing about music for more than two decades. Follow him on Twitter at @bcsalmon.

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