by Jeff McCord
There may be a better Austin single than Good Looks’ “Vision Boards” released this year, but I seriously doubt it. On first listen, this gut-shot, aimed at the expectations of myopic privilege, chants the mantra pounded into vocalist Tyler Jordan’s head: “If the answer’s in yourself, then the failure is your fault.” The laundry list comes next; short bootstraps, ten percent of sales, all “just not working out.” If this sounds like an unrelenting whine, it’s completely the opposite. Something about the repetition, the urgency, the cascading guitars of Jordan and Jake Ames, the near-perfect tone in Jordan’s voice – he’s just not buying this shit. Then the bridge – curiously, at the song’s end – builds to a euphoric peak, as Jordan vanquishes his parents, his demons, God, and even the voice in his own head. “Shut the fuck up,” he tells it. Whoa.
Jordan hails from the oil-soaked South Texas coast, where, like a lot of rural Texas kids, he began to sing in the church. Soon he found himself busking in downtown Austin, his voice bouncing off of buildings and coming to the attention of a Kerrville transplant, guitarist Jake Ames. Bonding over a similar contemporary worldview and their love of the Texas troika (Willie/Townes/Blaze), they began playing bands together, and before too long, started their own. A rhythm section followed (Anastasia Wright, Phillip Dunne, and backing vocalist Paige Renee Berry), and a fortuitous meetup with musician/producer/engineer Dan Duszynski (Loma. Cross Record) jumpstarted their debut recording, Bummer Year.
Bummer Year (on the Keeled Scales label) is littered with the same sharp observations that populate “Vision Boards”, capturing a Texas coming of age and all its youthful digressions and contradictions, as well as the illusion of perfect moments: “Try not to race ahead, although my heart wants to.” It seemed to be just the springboard they needed to get things moving.
Instead, the band’s wide-open promise came crashing down the night of their April 8th record release party. Following the show, Jake Ames was struck by a car, sustaining serious injuries. Tour dates were canceled, and a GoFundMe site was set up to help defray the medical bills of the hospitalized guitarist, who was listed in serious but stable condition, with brain injuries and a fractured skull. In a recent online update, Jordan wrote of his friend, “Jake is out of the ICU and into a normal room at the hospital. It seems as if his fractures will not require surgery. He has a long road ahead with [his] recovery.”
So while Ames recovers and “Vision Boards” fills the KUTX airwaves, Good Looks is forced to play an uncertain waiting game. We’re all rooting for them to be back in action soon.