by Meghan Hirsch
Houndmouth hails from Indiana, which explains their original jazzy, bluesy, folksy sound. It was with this sound that Houndmouth quickly gained popularity, eventually playing in big festivals and across the late-night circuit. But in 2018, Houndmouth traded in their banjos and harmonicas to reveal an entirely new sound on their album Golden Age. Fans weren’t exactly stoked, and the streaming numbers reflected that. It seems their newest album Good For You is a return to their beloved early sound, and aims to reconnect not only with their fans but also with their folk roots.
If there was such a thing as a “road album” like there are “road movies,” this album would probably be it. Each nostalgia-tinged song draws inspiration from or references a place, and seems to belong in a modern Western movie. The album begins with its namesake track “Good For You,” which is decidedly nothing like Olivia Rodrigo’s bitter revenge ballad. The song features a stripped-down vocal performance aided by subtle guitar and drums. The raw emotion in this song is palpable, setting the mood for a nostalgic and somewhat bittersweet album. The second track, “Miracle Mile,” is less acoustic, instead driven by its steady beat. This song seems to offer a sort of apology or explanation for why things turned out how they did, saying, “Hey ma, don’t ya be sad / I never knew nothing.”
The rest of the album continues in a similar fashion: referencing places and repeating a pattern of raw, almost distraught sounds followed by more upbeat, catchy ones. The fifth track, “Cool Jam,” has the most streams on Spotify so far, and seems to be one of the album’s stand-out tracks. The song serves as a perfect representation of the album itself: It’s nostalgic, with a chorus singing “This lonely star / It doesn’t flame like it used to, honey / This love of ours / It doesn’t burn like it used to,” and in typical Houndmouth fashion, it references a place, perhaps a bar, named the Alamo. The track stands out for its insightful lyrics that are both reflective and somewhat relatable. One lyric reads, “Mother Nature’s an American / Took the kids and split in a minivan.” There’s something oddly poignant about referencing Mother Nature and a minivan in the same breath; it seems to allude to complicated themes such as consumerism. The catchy tempo is accompanied by familiar folk chord progressions and continues to build, finally culminating in an almost shouted chorus at the end.
As the album progresses, tracks like “Ride or Die” and “Ohio,” both of which have a more melancholic tone, remind listeners that nostalgia is the overarching theme. Slow drums accompanied by acoustic strumming build into dramatic climaxes featuring lyrics like “Don’t kill my Ohio,” always bringing things back to a place. The last track, “Las Vegas,” provides a perfect ending to the album, and to this era of Houndmouth. It’s folk, but with more rock than some of the other tracks, showing how Houndmouth has evolved throughout their career. It follows the album’s formula by being nostalgic, but it’s also catchy, fun, and quite a head-bopper. The band experiments with tone and pitch throughout, making the track distinctive from the others’ more stripped-down, soulful tones. The driving lyric throughout seems to be “The city of plastic / So real it’s dangerous,” which describes Vegas, but also seems to hint back to consumerism. The song ends with the band members weakly shouting, “So real it could save us,” a satisfying conclusion to the album as a whole.