‘Good For You’, the fourth studio album from Indiana-based Houndmouth has a deep reflective feel, far removed from the fast-paced indie of a decade ago. Contributors are obviously several line-up changes as well as just the passing of time. Now a three-piece including the two founders guitarist Matthew Myers and drummer Shane Cody, Houndmouth’s more expansive americana sound feels like a natural home for their unique style of melancholic storytelling. Compared to their previous release ‘Golden Age’ this new album is much less electronic as Houndmouth sound more alt-folk. This more stripped-back approach creates more space for their dynamic lyrics.
The band recorded the album in a 19th-century rambling house that belonged to Cody’s grandparents. The sense of age and space these surroundings certainly made their way into the recording. The opening, and title, track’s first line sets the scene. “Chartreuse and chandeliers/ Fancy that, seeing you out here” sings Myers in a voice soaked in something from the drinks cabinet that must be a feature of such an abode. Relaxed is an understatement but the whole effect is as if the band had opened the front door to usher the listener into both the house and record.
Eased into both house and record the trio up the pace with ‘Miracle Mile’ a complex tale involving a myriad of characters, “Sweet Dionysus”, “Mister Arkansas” and “Sweet Mary Queen”. This qualifies as a novel and takes a bit of unravelling.
In this more roots/folk world Houndmouth have something in common with The Waterboys, in particular Myers has a haunting echo to his vocals akin to Mike Scott. Not the only example but that connection first comes up on ‘Make it to Midnight’. And who can argue against “Kept your mother’s menthol eyes” for original powerful imagery?
After only three songs it feels as if you are totally lost in this creepy mansion but far from attempting escape, curiosity pushes you into the next room. ‘Cool Jam’ is a wonderful expanse of imagination to the languorous drawl of Myers, “Used to see her down in the Alamo/ Selling loosies at the Kum & Go/ Cinderella’s in a bind again/ Come tomorrow she’ll be just fine again”.
‘Ohio’ typifies the sense of a life that’s passed and will not come back as a repetitive plea “Don’t kill my Ohio” ends a gentle melodic muse punctuated with bursts of slightly grungy guitar. Final track ‘Las Vegas’ pumps with the energy redolent of Houndmouth’s indie past but again, there is a hint of sadness that those days of excess are gone.
Brad Cook’s production and Jon Ashley’s mixing are superb as their work with Hiss Golden Messenger and War On Drugs respectively shine through. But if Houndmouth do mourn the passing of time, this less polished roots style perfectly complements their lavishly vivid lyrics.