Formed in 1993, Jimmy Eat World have released a string of seminal rock albums, every one of them boasting at least a handful of “classic” tracks, while Clarity (1999), Bleed American (2001) Futures (2004) and Chase This Light (2007) are arguably perfect from start to finish. Whether penning hard-edged rockers, pure pop songs or indulging their more melancholy or brooding sides, the quartet––who have maintained the same lineup across all but their ’94 self-titled debut––wield an enviable melodic savvy, and Jim Adkins’ evocative lyrics effortlessly capture the intricate, interwoven emotions involved in love and loss without ever pandering. Consequently, they don’t make picking a Top 15 list easy, and trying to narrow that to a Top 10 list is alarmingly stress-inducing. Any of the aforementioned albums could stand as such a list in its own right, and a “greatest hits” could be assembled from their singles. But we took a shot at selecting the songs that stand out.
1. “Lucky Denver Mint” – Clarity (1999)
Sixteen years old, “Lucky Denver Mint” still stands as the jewel in Jimmy Eat World’s crown. Between its clattering drum intro and outro, an insistent beat drives layers of shimmering guitars and an almost impossibly wonderful, tragic vocal melody carries it into the ether. Simply put, one of the most beautiful, passionate, saddest and rousing songs ever recorded.
2. “23” – Futures (2004)
Jimmy Eat World have always demonstrated a knack for ending albums on an emotional highpoint, and none conclude more magnificently than Futures. Clocking in at over seven minutes, “23” is a flawless track that captures the band at their very best: Guitars, pianos and layered melodies build and build and build. Alongside the Afghan Whigs’ “Faded,” it may just be the greatest closing track. Ever.
3. “A Praise Chorus” – Bleed American (2001)
A live favorite before Bleed American even hit the shelves, “A Praise Chorus” is equal parts excitement, optimism and fun. Its deceptively simple riffs and lively beat demand bouncing bodies, while the refrain lifted from Tommy James And The Shondells’ “Crimson And Clover” has been sung by capacity crowds the world over.
4. “Be Sensible” – Chase This Light (2007)
Upon completing tracking of Chase This Light, the band decided that two longer, slower tracks would affect the overall dynamic of the record too much. So, they opted to keep “Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues” and “Be Sensible” (arguably the finest track the sessions yielded) relegated to European/iTunes bonus track status. Brittle, aching and straight-up gorgeous, it tugs on the heartstrings like nothing else.
5. “Here It Goes” – Chase This Light (2007)
When it comes to perfect pop songs you can’t do much better than “Here It Goes.” With lively handclaps, tightly interwoven guitar and electronic parts, and huge overlaid vocal harmonies, there’s such genuine excitement to it, which makes even the subtle melancholy it suggests seem uplifting.
6. “Kill” – Futures (2004)
Simultaneously urgent and haunting, “Kill” raises goosebumps no matter how many times you have heard it. With lyrics that capture the acute pain of staying in a relationship you know is bad for you set to chiming, uneasy melodies, it is one of the most disarming and affecting songs released in the ’00s.
7. “Disintegration” – Stay On My Side Tonight EP (2005)
The Stay On My Side Tonight EP walked a dark path, and with “Disintegration” it yielded their most ambitious, experimental song. Clocking in at 7:44, the track is dominated by a brooding, almost apocalyptic tone that carries somber lyrics, and subdued melodies and clattering drums conveying ever-building threat. Clearly, it was something they needed to get out of their system before penning the largely effervescent Chase This Light.
8. “Your House” – Bleed American (2001)
On the surface, “Your House” is an understated, shimmering, almost bouncy pop song, its jangly acoustic strum and delicate vocal melodies making a lovely soundtrack to a summer evening. However, the lyrics are wrought with exquisite pain in the wake of a failed relationship, and the desperate need to break all contact with an ex to allow the healing to begin.
9. “Big Casino” – Chase This Light (2007)
Perhaps Jimmy Eat World’s finest rock anthem, “Big Casino” is sunshine in a can with a whole lot of roaring guitars. A rush of delirious excitement from the start, the chorus is shout-along nirvana, and if you’re not smiling by the time it’s done, there’s a good chance you’re dead inside.
10. “Table For Glasses” – Clarity (1999)
With it’s slow, shuffling beat and delicately picked notes, “Table For Glasses” could almost be a lullaby, though as it rises to its aching crescendo it is more than a little rousing. Kicking Clarity off with this song was a masterstroke, delicately and lovingly reintroducing the band and setting the almost impossibly high standard that the band would maintain over the following twelve tracks.
11. “Call It In The Air” – Static Prevails (1996)
The finest track on Static Prevails, “Call It In The Air” is pure adrenaline wrapped up in fuzzy guitars. Charging along in lively, boisterous fashion with hooks aplenty, an abrupt tempo change launches the song into its towering chorus. In three minutes, they show legions of pop-punk bands how this shit is done.
12. “The Most Beautiful Things” – Jebediah/Jimmy Eat World Split (2000)
One of three Jimmy Eat World tracks included on their split with Australia’s Jebediah, “The Most Beautiful Things” catches the band in a reflective mood. Shifting from the glistening arpeggios of the verse to the roaring guitars of the chorus, it both elicits a fist-in-the-air response and the gentle breaking of hearts.
13. “Bleed American” – Bleed American (2001)
“Bleed American”––temporarily renamed “Salt Sweat Sugar” due to already being in rotation in the wake of 9/11, and considered insensitive––is the band’s hardest moment. With armor-plated riffs and Adkins’ most antagonistic vocal delivery, it proved that the band could rawk, soon becoming a live favorite and guaranteed mosh-starter.
14. “Heart Is Hard To Find” – Invented (2010)
There’s a lot going on in the first track of Jimmy Eat World’s seventh full-length. Built around a deceptively simple acoustic strum, by the time the song climaxes, all kinds of orchestrations and layer upon layer of vocal harmonies have piled up to create something both intimate and glorious.
15. “Damage” – Damage (2013)
The alt-rock sound of their earlier releases blended with the more confident songwriting of more recent records, Damage stands as perhaps the band’s most uneven release, but a handful of great songs still shine, none more so than the plaintive title track. With simple hooks and a touch of country, its ethereal climax takes it to the next level.