There’s something to be said for the future. A realm of unknown, of decisions and choices that shape you as the person you grow up to be. Jimmy Eat World has grown up a lot in ten years, but something still brings me back to their 2004 album, Futures.
That album was the soundtrack to my high school years. Some songs made me want to drive around in my car with the windows down, scream-singing along with Jim Adkins and his perfect voice. Some songs made me cry, made me ache, made me feel.
It was an adolescence wrapped up in 11 songs. 49 minutes of lyrical honesty that made me want to scrawl each syllable in notebooks so I wouldn’t forget them. 10 years later, I still know all the words. Maybe you do too.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of this album, I’m compiling my top five standout tracks on the record. Jimmy Eat World is currently on tour right now playing this album straight through, so there must be some importance in it still; some resonating truths that people are still holding on to. I know I still am.
Number Five: “Polaris” Some die-hard fans might consider this as a weird choice. That’s alright, I’m sticking by my decision. As one of the rare mellow tunes on an otherwise fast-paced, harder rocking album, I think there is something to be said for the pure poetry within the lyrics of this song. “Tonight it feels so hard / As the train approaches Gare Du Nord / As I’m sure your kiss remains employed / Am I only dreaming?”
I can’t be the only person who swooned at those lines. Train rides and kisses happening between people that shouldn’t be kissing! It’s gorgeous and horrible at the same time. Was someone cheating? Was he leaving behind an unfaithful lover? We’ll never know, will we?
Number Four: “Kill” In 2004, AOL Instant Messenger was still alive and well among the teenage set. Many tweens and teens had lyrics from this song smattered across their AIM profile pages, hoping that their one unrequited crush would see it and understand it was obviously for them. As these things go, their efforts usually went unnoticed.
Jim pines away for a girl on this track, knowing it’s best for him to walk away before he gets hurt. Story of my life, Jim. He loves her and he can’t change the way he feels. 16-year-old me couldn’t change it either. This song definitely still holds up in my book. The angst, the longing, the passionate vocal whine that happens when Jim sings: “I know what you want to say / I know it but can’t help feeling differently / I loved you, and I should have said it / But tell me, just what has it ever meant?”
Number Three: “Night Drive” Alright, we’re slowing it down here. Little known to most people, Jimmy Eat World had a sultry side. This whole song is a little dirty, but in the classiest way possible. A night’s tryst can turn into fodder for a lot of different songs – but the guys managed to craft a narrative that was sexy and a little creepy at the same time. The song is a slow buildup to a big pay-off, much like a lot of romantic encounters.
I’m certain that many a make-out session probably happened in the backs of cars thanks to this song. And how could you not feel something from the lyrics, the subtle percussion, and the way Jim loses a little control on the vocals? Seriously, you need a cold shower after this one. “Come alive on the driver’s side / So close I taste your breath / Your lips go dry, but they’re sweet inside / Wine must go right to your head.” Phew.
Number Two: “Futures” This is the lead-off track to the whole album and has always been one of my favorites. It holds such promise for the rest of the songs on the record. To be honest, I never fully grasped the lyrics of this song in a deeper-meaning kind of way. My interpretation is: the future’s looking bright, they’re trading up and taking on a faster life and trying to get on their feet the best they can.
It wasn’t necessarily the lyrics that resonated in me for this song; it was the musicality. The subtle shifts in melody, the swaggering guitars, and the fade out at the end. I return to this track time and time again. Something always brings me back. “Why is it so hard to find a balance / Between living decent and the cold and real?”
Number One: “23” And finally, we’ve made it. The closing track on a Jimmy Eat World album always sticks with me long after the last chord is played. This last song has been with me for ten years. This was a song that just struck so hard in my heart. It’s about being a young adult, not fully knowing where you stand in life or how to get by. It’s about knowing you’re going to make mistakes, and eventually, you just might know how to solve them.
I remember feeling intensely poignant listening to this song on the eve of my 23rd birthday. It felt so special to hear these words as Jim may have intended them when they were written. I was finally in the special “23” club and had someone singing parts of my life back to me. This song is a seven-minute opus and every second is important. “You’ll sit alone forever / If you wait for the right time / What are you hoping for? / I’m here, I’m now, I’m ready / Holding on tight / Don’t give away the end / The one thing that stays mine.”
I think it’s fitting the album closed with this song. It’s still a little optimistic for the future, like one day everything will be figured out. Jimmy Eat World, as a collective, still writes with so much honesty and pain. 10 years later, Futures is still a record with a lot to say.