Review Summary: Expands on the qualities of 'Bleed American' by showing the band's growth and maturity, both musically and vocally. Less immediate than its predecessor, it is not much worse off for that.
Progression from album to album is not always an easy task for a band to achieve successfully and that goes double when the previous album is a breakthrough hit worldwide. It is just too tempting a task to practically remake that album with different song titles, achieve more success and think about retirement to where the weather is hotter. Thankfully, Jimmy Eat World is from Arizona in the United States & the last thing they want to do is go anywhere hotter.
Sometimes the easiest way to progress is to look back at past efforts, take the best parts of them and roll them into one nice big ball encompassing all of a musical artist's strengths. And so we have Jimmy Eat World's 5th album 'Futures', an album that takes the catchy, sing-along and memorable qualities from 2001's pop-rock masterpiece 'Bleed American' and expands on it by showing the band's growth and maturity, both musically and vocally.
Some of the songs contained on this album could arguably be described as above-average standard pop-rock fare that is simply re-hashing songs from the group's previous album. Take for example, the opening title track, 2nd single 'Work' and 'The World You Love'. But all these tracks are performed with such professionalism that they are made to work. 'Just Tonight...' hints at something a little deeper and darker in its vocals, lyrics and guitar-work, but the band's ability to still include a great chorus with sing-along qualities is their major strength. Meanwhile, the very good 'Kill' adds an acoustic touch to the formula to add some freshness.
The clear album highlight for mine is the up-tempo 1st single 'Pain'. It is near-perfect, involving and memorable, resulting in a song of the year contender. I don't think it's placement as the 6th and middle track of this album is by accident, as the LP starkly shifts gears as soon as the track ends. And what a piece to follow it up with... The 6+ minute 'Drugs or Me' is an extremely impressive piano-driven ballad that makes good use of strings. But the shining light here is vocalist Tom Adkins whose beautiful controlled vocals stand out. As they do on the following chameleon of a track 'Polaris' which satisfyingly shifts from ballad to pop-rocker to a rock crescendo as it's 5 minute duration comes to an end.
The darker and more mature sequence is disrupted a little by the anthemic punk-influenced 'Nothingwrong' which isn't entirely convincing, but makes for a good late album track. The same can arguably be said with penultimate track 'Night Drive' which mixes both ends of the spectrum; Cheesy high school lyrics and enchanting beautiful harmonies. It's almost as if the band is showing off with this track by making a gorgeous piece out of any words... Ignore the lyrics and you'll love it too. The 7+ minute closer '23' does the job decently enough with good strings and guitar complementing mature vocals & lyrics.
'Futures' may lack the instant impact of its predecessor. Due to its darker 2nd half, it is not as immediate or accessible. Yet it is not all that much of a lesser album for that. This is simply due to the band successfully progressing by expanding on their sound, vocals and lyrics. A much more mature effort, 'Futures' is Jimmy Eat World's best album lyrically & emotionally. Furthermore, it is Jim Adkins showcase as a talented vocalist as his controlled real vocals often improve a song to a quality it may otherwise not deserve. This is an album that the band and their fans should very much be proud of.
Recommended Tracks: Pain, Just Tonight..., Drugs Or Me & Futures.