The future looked exciting then, if not amorphous. I knew I had one, knew it was inevitable, and I knew what made me feel good: music, friends,writing, creativity. But did I know how those things would coalesce? Did I know the highs and lows to come would rival the best and worst I’d experienced in 16 years? Did I know how much I’d one day be able to make sense of myself, all the while holding onto the notes and messages and stories of those songs I took in at that very moment? Then, as now, I saw hope in what was to come, even if I didn’t know how it would play out. I knew what feelings mattered and I followed them – ten years later, I’ve learned the importance of that.
I’d loved Jimmy Eat World for several years before this release. I’d already fallen in love with Clarity and already rattled off their name in the list of my favorite bands. This record was an anticipated arrival that did not disappoint, it carried hope and yearning and pensive struggle with some of the best hooks this band has created, while recapturing an alt-rock throne that cemented this band’s legacy as royalty among a certain crowd. How many other bands can walk the line so well between assertive punk (“Pain,” “Just Tonight”) with radio-ready choruses (“Work,” “Kill” ) and cinematic melodies (“Polaris,” “23”)? Who even has since?
I remember playing “23” and wondering where I’d be when I was that age. I remember singing it loudly in my car on that birthday, driving around Main Street with a friend who told me it was OK to sing. Hearing it today is funny. What I wouldn’t give to be 23 again, to do so much so differently…but I suppose I must be happy it is this way, now, because once more there is a future ahead.
“You’ll sit alone forever
If you wait for the right time
What are you hoping for?
I’m here and now, I’m ready
Holding on tight,
Don’t give away the end,
The one thing that stays mine.”
Jimmy Eat World, Futures
On this one, every track is a memory. Every memory is a place, a person, a feeling. Every transition on this record is seamless and I find I can listen to it from start to finish and reflect kindly on the years that have passed. Friends, lovers and internal discord from different chapters of life are interwoven with Futures maybe moreso than most of my others favorite albums, because it has never stopped feeling present, never stopped being relevant. Beyond that, it is incredibly listenable, and interesting. These songs are confident and dressed just-so. This era was before the too-many-instruments, too-much-laptop sound really found a foothold, and Jimmy Eat World, with their smart parts and truly dedicated post-production, exemplified the best that rock music could be in that age. The auxiliary on this album is more than background effect. It is a supporting character, illuminating pop structures with higher depth. Mostly I think this record has beautiful tones, a warm heavy mood from the combination of great songs, great guitar and subtle production – timeless, timeless qualities.
The title track became an instant anthem, full of sentient optimism. It is probably my favorite song from this collection. I believe it is also timeless, because of the reality it captures. I think those opening chords are the perfect hint at the darker edges and fuller swells to come, I think they are a bold statement that commands attention. Such a Track 1 choice is risky, because you’re trusting the rest of your album to match those first grand gestures – this is what separates Jimmy Eat World from other bands who try a big, open sound, is they can deliver it.
Of course I cannot talk about Futures without talking about the cover art, as iconic as any of the age. Pay phones, imagery that would return on “Damage,” and the dim spotlight of loneliness. It is pensive, and perfect.
In continued tenth anniversary commemoration, here is the only song I know how to play from this album. I didn’t do a very good job performing it cleanly, but it comes from a place of respect and admiration, and also, the heart.
“Don’t think we’re not serious,
when it’s ever not?
The love we make, it’s give and it’s take,
I’m game to play along.”