At only 22 years old, Will Joseph Cook has already grasped the ability to say exactly what his generation is thinking. One single from his latest record Something to Feel Good About, titled “Be Around Me,” is a huge hit on TikTok as a meme shared between young, PDA-positive couples. As strange as it is, getting thousands of kids cosplaying to your song on TikTok is the way to know that you’ve made it nowadays. We’re living in cosmically bizarre times, but Cook has managed to craft a project that showcases both the best of indie-of-days-past as well as a fresh pop sound that resonates as uniquely Gen Z.
Cook’s musical background is familiar to anyone who went through puberty in the late ‘00s and early ‘10s. He claims that some of his greatest influences are Vampire Weekend and MGMT, both being bands that he found online in his formative years. These are the bands he learned how to play guitar to and it shows clearly in his work. With nostalgia being such a draw among people in their early 20s, it’s worth noting that Cook is able to weave his influences into his work without drowning in their sound. Despite sounding indebted to 2009, Something to Feel Good About manages to break Cook through as an artist in his own right.
As the most popular track, it’s fitting that “Be Around Me” is the introduction to the project. However, unlike the rest of the album, it has a clear bedroom pop sound. Like a Rex Orange County track put on 2x speed, it bounces along while Cook opines about his latest crush. Even more fun, though, is the title track right after it. “Something to Feel Good About” truly feels good. Somewhere between the afropop stylings of Vampire Weekends’ debut record and a Jack Johnson song, it sounds like if coffee shop music knew how to loosen up and have fun.
Broken up into two halves, Part One and Part Two, the record is notably more poptimistic on the front end. “10x More Fun” and “She Likes Me” are both bouncy romantic bops that use hand claps and clever rhymes. Though they aren’t the stand-outs on Something to Feel Good About, they fit well within the sequencing. There’s some nice guitar licks on “10x More Fun” that make up for the so-so talk-rap flavor on “She Likes Me,” but both are worthy b-sides.
The final two tracks on Part One are a bit weirder, but no less fun than what came before. “Wayside” is a chill almost-breakup track with a decent instrumental build. However, “Driverless Cars” is by far the strangest track of the bunch. It feels like a genuine risk, pulling on Cook’s influences more effectively than ever before. Instead of sounding like any other artist on a random indie Spotify playlist, it sounds like an updated, poppier MGMT track with a special Will Joseph Cook twist. If Cook has more songs like this up his sleeve, you can count me in.
Unfortunately, Part Two of the record isn’t as memorable as the first. There are still some good tracks to be found, like soaring single “DOWNDOWNDOWN!”, but it’s weighed down by clichéd platitudes of what it means to be young like in “21.” “Boundary Street,” a pretty synth-led track with honest lyrics, is the best of the bunch because it looks inward at personal flaws that many can relate to instead of trying to make sweeping generalizations about the lives of people in their early twenties. “21” and closer “Last Year” both attempt to be Gen Z anthems, but fall a bit short in their execution in comparison.
Though Part Two has more of a targeted approach, it’s Part One that mostly succeeds as a portrait of Gen Z dating and introspection. It’s fun, it’s a bit melodramatic, and it pulls on sounds that we all grew up loving. Those tracks are Will Joseph Cook at his most interesting. Part Two is undeniably lovely, but ultimately I’d love to see Cook follow the other direction as he moves his career forward. He does have it in him to be a powerful voice and Something to Feel Good About sees him push closer toward something truly great.