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12 by Jimmy Eat World

12 by... aims to summarize and artist's career in 12 songs. This week features...






I'll always be proud of Jimmy Eat World, because "I knew them when...". I first saw them at a bar in 1997, a good four years before they blew up with "The Middle." Also, I've said it before, but if I if I go deaf someday, they'll be at least partially to blame. Though they are probably loathe to admit it, they remain truer to the spirit of emo than any the make-up laden followers who have claimed the genre for themselves.

1. "Call It In The Air" (from Static Prevails, 1996) 
Dueling lead vocals, start-stop, quiet-loud dynamics, raging guitars and a swooning outro? Textbook emo. 

2. "Opener" (from Singles, 2000) 
The song that got me into the band. My college roommate Nick and I originally heard it on an obscure 1997 compilation called The Emo Diaries-Chapter 1-What's Mine Is Yours. I especially love the false ending with the final hurrah. 

3. "Lucky Denver Mint" (from Clarity, 1999) 
"You're not bigger than this / not better / why can't you learn" was a great message for a mildly misanthropic college student. I tried to take it to heart. Dig the drum-centric outro, too. 

4. "For Me This Is Heaven" (from Clarity, 1999) 
Songs like this ballad are why it makes me smile when the band tries to distance itself from emo. After all, they repeat the line "Can you still feel the butterflies?" multiple times. The line "If I don't let myself be happy now then when?" also spoke volumes to me when I first heard this song, but sad to say I still struggle with remembering to live in the moment. 

5. "Blister" (from Clarity, 1999)
Post-apocalyptic lyrics paired with uplifting music make this a live favorite.

6. "No Sensitivity" (from Jimmy Eat World/Jebidiah EP, 2000) 
I'm-writing-you-off break-up songs are great, and I love how bands keep finding new ways to say the same thing. In this case "I'm taking my kisses back from you" does quite nicely. 

7. "A Praise Chorus" (from Bleed American, 2001) 
A song about songs, and thus having the ability to make me feel squirmy and happy every time, especially when The Promise Ring's Davey von Bohlen comes in to sing lyrics from Tommy James, They Might Be Giants, Motley Crue, Madness, The Kinks and his own band. 

8. "If You Don't, Don't" (from Bleed American, 2001) 
Do you know how some songs feel familiar and classic from the very first listen? It was that way for me with this one. Once again the emo comes out, in the I-know-we're-not-going-to-make-it-but-I'm-still-achingly-nostalgic lyrics. 

9. "The Middle" (from Bleed American, 2001) 
Sure it was a big hit, but it actually deserved to be. Pep talks don't get much better than the believe-in-yourself message of this song! 

10. "Polaris" (from Futures, 2004) 
Atmospheric and haunting. Once again their penchant for nuggets of lyrical truth strike home for me: "They say that love goes anywhere / In your darkest time / It's just enough to know it's there." 

11. "The World You Love" (from Futures, 2004) 
Manages to evoke a rollercoaster of emotions - wistfulness, anger, hope, sadness - without feeling schizophrenic.

12. "23" (from Futures, 2004)
A slow-burning 7-minute epic that hits you where it hurts so good: "You'll sail 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 ending / The one thing that stays mine."

*

The above entry was revised in 2021. For posterity, here's the original 2008 list:

1. "Call It In The Air" (from Static Prevails, 1996)
Dueling lead vocals, start-stop, quiet-loud dynamics, raging guitars and a swooning outro? This is emo.

2. "Opener" (from Singles, 2000)
My college roommate Nick and I originally heard this song on an obscure 1997 compilation called The Emo Diaries-Chapter 1-What's Mine Is Yours and loved it, especially the false ending with the final hurrah.

3. "Lucky Denver Mint" (from Clarity, 1999)
"You're not bigger than this / not better / why can't you learn" was a great message for a mildly misanthropic college student. I tried to take it to heart. Dig the drum-centric outro, too.

4. "For Me This Is Heaven" (from Clarity, 1999)
Songs like this ballad are why it makes me smile when the band tries to distance itself from emo. After all, they repeat the line "Can you still feel the butterflies?" multiple times. The line "If I don't let myself be happy now then when?" also spoke volumes to me when I first heard this song, unused as I was to living in the moment.

5. "No Sensitivity" (from Jimmy Eat World/Jebidiah EP, 2000)
I'm-writing-you-off break-up songs are great, and I love how bands keep finding new ways to say the same thing. In this case "I'm taking my kisses back from you" does quite nicely.

6. "A Praise Chorus" (from Bleed American, 2001)
A song about songs, and thus having the ability to make me feel squirmy and happy every time, especially when The Promise Ring's Davey von Bohlen comes in to sing lyrics from Tommy James, They Might Be Giants, Motley Crue, Madness, The Kinks and his own band.

7. "The Middle" (from Bleed American, 2001)
Sure it was a big hit, but it actually deserved to be. Pep talks don't get much better than the believe-in-yourself message of this song!

8. "If You Don't, Don't" (from Bleed American, 2001)
Do you know how some songs feel familiar and classic from the very first listen? It was that way for me with this one. Once again the emo comes out, in the I-know-we're-not-going-to-make-it-but-I'm-still-achingly-nostalgic lyrics.

9. "Polaris" (from Futures, 2004)
Atmospheric and haunting, to me it seemed like an authentic artistic leap for the band. Once again their penchant for nuggets of lyrical truth strike home for me: "They say that love goes anywhere / In your darkest time / It's just enough to know it's there."

10. "Work" (from Futures, 2004)
I can't really figure out what the lyrics are about, but the harmonies (with help from Liz Phair) are so darn pretty.

11. "Over" (from Stay On My Side Tonight EP, 2005)
This wrenching break-up tune is a throwback to their looser early sound.

12. "Here It Goes" (from Chase This Light, 2007)
Would it be weird if I said this song has a disco feel? Certainly it's as happy and carefree as we've ever heard the band. If only there were a way to bottle the feeling...

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