Sometimes an artist just needs 12 more songs to summarize their career. Case in point...
Sometimes your favorite band sneaks up on you. I'd been a Jimmy Eat World fan since the late 1990s, and never missed one of their albums. But they didn't become my favorite band until a 2013 concert at First Avenue, where I found myself singing along with every single song by heart. It was then that I realized that for every single phase of my adult life, Jimmy Eat World has been there to soundtrack it. As I hope this list attests, they continue to make vital and compelling music.
You definitely want to check out the 12 by Jimmy Eat World list to relive the first part of their career.
1. "Big Casino" (from Chase This Light, 2007)
A highly caffeinated tune that contains one of my top ten all-time Jimmy Eat World lyrics: "Well there's lots of smart ideas in books I've never read / When the girls come talk to me I wish to hell I had."
2. "Always Be" (from Chase This Light, 2007)
Chase This Light came out when I was 30 years old, not long after I started dating the woman who is now my wife. "Always Be" spoke to me profoundly as a summary of the series of romantic failures that was my 20s. I wonder if I would have embraced the song had I still been in the middle of all that. I think I would have, as it makes "I'm alone in this / as I've always been / Right behind what's happening" sound like something noble rather than awful.
3. "Chase This Light" (from Chase This Light, 2007)
Jimmy Eat World are faithful followers of Prince's tenet that great albums always have great title tracks. So it's a sure bet that the song the album is named after is going to be a damn good one. This lovely ballad is not an exception.
4. "My Best Theory" (from Invented, 2010)
A double guitar attack highlights this rocker that (to me) seems to be about a harboring healthy doubt of religion.
5. "Invented" (from Invented, 2010)
Go back and see what I wrote about "Chase This Light." Great harmony vocals from Courtney Marie Andrews and one of the best slow builds of any song ever.
6. "Damage" (from Damage, 2013)
Another title track! This one is a clear-eyed assessment of the final days of a relationship.
7. "I Will Steal You Back" (from Damage, 2013)
The flip side of "Damage," in which the narrator believes they can still make it work, maybe: "I only pick a fight I know I'm sure to lose / So how can I not hold out hope for you?"
8. "Sure and Certain" (from Integrity Blues, 2016)
A soaring song demonstrating the old saying, "The older I get, the less I know."
9. "Pol Roger" (from Integrity Blues, 2016)
After an album full of songs exploring the psychological aftermath of a harsh break-up, this epic closer wraps it all up in a bow. The narrator is spending his birthday by himself in London and trying to be okay with it. "Love don't come to you / It was just there always."
11. "Delivery" (from Surviving, 2019)
Jimmy Eat World's trio of albums from Damage through Surviving seem to document an ongoing process of coming out of a long-term relationship while at the same time facing down the inner demons that the break-up brought to light. Surviving is the point where a lot of the awful work has been done, and you're starting to look outward again, and "Delivery" is about finding acceptance and peace in the difficult things you've been through.
10. "555" (from Surviving, 2019)
Anytime a band that's been around for 25 years can do something that's genuinely musically shocking but doesn't feel like a betrayal of themselves, that's special. "555" is that sort of song. The first time I heard it, accompanied by its mesmerizing sci-fi video, I immediately hit replay. And then I did it again. And then again.
12. "Congratulations" (from Surviving, 2019)
On the closing song of their 10th album, Jimmy prove they can still rock out convincingly. The song's topical lyrics are about the dangers of denying factual evidence and sublimating your sense of empathy in favor of self-interest.