With Futures, Jimmy Eat World have found their way out of a tight spot in dazzling style. What do you do when you’ve already proven yourself to be equally masterful at creating dreamy, introspective emo (1999’s Clarity) and stripped-down, hyper-melodic pop rock (2001’s Bleed American)? Well, you could attempt to find some middle ground by trying to write an album that unites both styles. The trouble is, unless you are extremely gifted (or lucky) you’ll end up with a record full of watered down pop and half-realized ambitions of grandeur. Lucky for us, Jimmy Eat World not only possesses the required talent to almost completely avoid this pitfall, but also the sense to hire a producer (Gil Norton of Pixies/Foo Fighters fame) experienced in balancing artistic integrity with commercial success.
When Futures hits its mark, which happens to be most of the time, the results are sublime. Tracks “Kill” and “Polaris” are album standouts and pure Jimmy Eat World gold. On these songs and others, we see Clarity-esque layers of strings, keyboards and guitar effects coexist with hard-edged, sing-along choruses. Lyrically, the subject matter here is darker than before, but still as heartstring-tugging as ever. Frontman Jim Adkins once again manages to wear his heart on his sleeve and remain inspirational-the sincerity evident in his voice never allows us to cringe or pity.
For style purists, Futures also contains tracks that would feel at home on previous Jimmy Eat World releases. Bouncy pop can be found on the title track and guitar-heavy rock on the first single “Pain.” The guitar fuzz and feedback of that song never completely dies, but seeps into the next-the harrowing piano ballad “Drugs or Me”-and continues to ripple away as an undercurrent for the duration, like a stifled scream. Considering the critical acclaim of their previous releases and hype surrounding this one, it is difficult to talk about the merits of Futures in isolation (and there are a lot of them). But whether or not this album is actually as good as their last is not really the point. Jimmy Eat World have risen to the formidable challenge of moving their sound logically forward and, in being successful, have once again justified their title of guiding lights in indie rock.

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