Review Summary: The soundtrack to my... something.
I must confess something that likely will shock anyone who is passionate enough about music to be reading a user review on Sputnikmusic: I have never connected with an album. No piece of music has ever linked itself to any point of my oscillations between occasions of unadulterated euphoria and of inconsolable sorrow. I’d estimate that there’s approximately a one hundred percent chance this is because the vast majority of music relates to some stage of a romantic relationship, which, through only the fault of my own, I've impressively managed to avoid. Instead, I live in some sort of emotional bubble which manages to resist nearly every record out there. The only album that has ever managed to come close is Jimmy Eat World's Futures
To me, one defense of overprotective tiger parents who deny their children the escapist fantasies of television programs, films, and video games holds any water: the criminally understated influence of Hollywood tropes poisoning the youth with themes of underdog victory, Hollywood romantic endings, and other tropes that specifically appeal to the masses because reality tends not to play out that way. For every movie that breaks the mold, another ten mend it. And so our youth grow up with naive, parochial views of how life works, and they ignore well-intentioned advice that states otherwise. And only through life experience do these misconceptions shatter, in an instant that starts around puberty and ends years later, the pieces leaving behind a new world to be built with its own beauty, a harsher beauty but a more resplendent one as well.
Along with the occasional film like 500 Days of Summer
is one of the few media that straddles the line between Hollywood and reality in a manner that presents itself as easily digestible for this young audience while maintaining its crisp thoughtfulness. Futures
is an eclectic, atmospheric work full of complex emotions boiled to their essence---emotions that are transcribed beautifully, poignantly, and simply for the target audience. It touches upon topics as serious as drug abuse both with the dizzying frenzy of emotions in ‘Pain’ as a friend is being lost and with fragile urging in ‘Drugs or Me’ that only comes with perspective. But perhaps the topic it tackles most astutely is teenage romance. The infectious ‘Work’ nails the rhythm of a back-and-forth relationship through a description of what seems to be high school prom. With little snippets that alternate between wisdom and folly masquerading as teenagers' wisdom, ‘Work’ perhaps best exemplifies the digestible yet precise musicianship and lyricism of Futures.
If 500 Days of Summer
ultimately ends with hope for the future, Futures
leaves no such sentiment. The closest I have ever connected with any song is an honor shared by the two most precise and quotable tracks---’Kill’ and ‘23.’ The former is an acoustic ballad with the slightest twinkling of piano, but Jim Adkins takes the spotlight. The song contains no refrain beyond the occasionally repeated line “I know what I should do but I just can't walk away,” and it is an apt summary for the lyrical topic. The idea of the unattainable woman, idealized to perfection, too good for anyone---no, too good for you---for whom your feelings seem never to fade is a feeling I’m quite intimate with.
Yet recently, I’ve found myself drifting closer to the closer ‘23,’ which has been a catalyst in getting me closure. With lines like “You’ll sit alone forever/ if you wait for the right time/ what are you hoping for?”, ‘23’ seems almost the perfect rebuttal to ‘Kill.’ It's vocalist Jim Adkins grabbing and violently shaking me out of my complacent idealism, demanding me to understand the fact that no scripted movie ending will magically cause things fall in place, that each perceived setback I'm facing isn't just another obstacle that I'll inevitably overcome to reach my guaranteed happy ending. This is a tough concept to swallow, that there is no symmetry in life, that things don’t work out like in a Hollywood film, that you can think yourself perfect for somebody and not wind up with her. It almost seems preferable to have avoided these tropes completely, to never have watched a Disney movie and vicariously shared in the joy of achieving the elusive ‘true love.’
But then, you play ‘Night Drive,’ with an unremarkable yet thoroughly intimate tale of losing one’s virginity accompanied by almost tribal “oohing.” And you realize, life is what you make of it. So what if your life does not match a fairy tale script ad verbatim? You are free to write your own miserable script, and, more importantly, free to create your own meaning and happiness in the uncaring randomness of its lines. I realize that because of Futures
, and honestly I wouldn't have it any other way.