The acoustic strumming and handclaps that make up Heart Is Hard To Find are a far cry from the guitar-heavy sound the band usually employs on album openers (see: Bleed American, Futures, Big Casino).
Guitarist/vocalist Jim Adkins sings this song in a lower register than some casual JEW fans might be accustomed to, delivering his lyrics with a tender, heartfelt inflection. The first words on this album are I can’t compete with the clear eyes of strangers/ I’m more and more replaced/ By my friends each night, and combined with Adkins’ delivery they create a whimsical sense of melancholy that characterizes the rest of the album well.
The song is a fantastic start to the record, a diverse collection of songs that are really among the band’s best in their career.
After the folky, string and bell-laden number kicks things off, My Best Theory returns to Jimmy Eat World radio single territory: buzzy guitars, catchy vocals by Adkins, a bouncy drum beat by Zach Lind, and a memorable hook. It has a really nice groove, and maintains a darker edge to it throughout (probably due to the driving guitar riffs).
Evidence is a more experimental track for the band, and almost comes close to sounding like Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace-era Foo Fighters. The song doesn’t really have a “hook”, per se, but its steady rhythm and guitar crunch give it a great overall sound. The bridge is the part that most reminds me of the Foos, as the guitar effects are similar to those employed by Chris Shiflett and Dave Grohl. Hang up a sheet/ Between our things/ Won’t have to see/ Evidence, Adkins sings, while a whirlwind of guitar noises erupts behind his voice. It’s one of my favorite parts on the album.
Higher Devotion sounds like it will be a JEW radio hit in the next couple months, and it’s not too bad (disregard the “can you feel my eye lasers hit” line if you can). The dance-y chorus and high pitched vocals calls to mind Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole, as both songs use a similar combination of percussive noise and danceable rock riffs. It took me a few listens to really appreciate this song, but in the end it’s not too bad. It’s like The Middle – not great, but will probably end up a radio hit for the band, should they choose to release it.
Movielike is one of my highlights of the album, with a killer melody and an interesting lyrical theme about a messy break up (I think?) in New York. The narrator speaks of his situation being Nothing movie-like/ Nothing magic/ People just tire to fight the constant battle/ Waiting to see a sign?/ Then you’ve seen the best already. I guess I appeal to the concept of New York not being all it’s cracked up to be, even though I haven’t experienced a messy situation like what this song concerns. Musically, the jagged beat and acoustic guitars (again) add to the song’s downbeat lyrical content quite well. It’s a great combination.
Coffee and Cigarettes returns to the JEW radio formula, a relentlessly catchy tune about a “townie kid” gathering up his life and heading West. I like narrative songs like this, the kind that tell little random stories about fictional characters. The song is pretty straightforward musically, with somewhat generic riffs plodding through the verses and chorus, but the addition of bells here and there, as well as backup vocals by singer/songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews give the song a memorable overall sound. This song also sounds primed for radio play, and that’s not too bad of an idea, given its pleasant feel and the infectiousness.
The choruses of backup vocals in tracks like Heart is Hard To Find, Evidence and Coffee and Cigarettes, combined with the bell chimes and assorted percussive tools used here and there really reminded me of Arcade Fire. Some of the songs on Invented have the same kind of sound that Arcade Fire uses all the time. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it’s something that struck me when listening. Adkins and the rest of the band used a non-traditional approach (at least by their standards) to the songwriting process this time, so perhaps the new method helped produce the, ahem, inventiveness of some of these tracks.
The three-song span of Stop, Littlething and Cut allow the band to slow down a bit and get sensitive, with backup vocals by Rachel Haden on Stop and lush violin work and piano plucks accentuating Littlething. Cut features some more impressive vocals, again using a chorus that plays off of Adkins’ voice pretty well. These three are good enough in their own right, but aren’t really among my highlights of the album.
Action Needs an Audience is a break from the softer stuff, with guitarist Tom Linton manning the vocals this time. That ought to please Clarity fans. The song has another great riff and steady beat, and almost doesn’t sound like Jimmy Eat World (probably due to the absence of Adkins’ voice). Linton has a scruffy voice that fits the song well, and overall it’s one of the best moments on the record.
The last two tracks, Invented and Mixtape, are what you’d call “show-stoppers”. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering the strength of Jimmy Eat World album-closers in the past (Night Drive, 23, My Sundown, etc.). Both are low-key affairs, Invented starting out as tender acoustic ballad that steadily grows in energy until a raucous finale. Its overall tone and feel, as well as Courtney Marie Andrews again adding her voice to the mix, are just great. Lyrically, the song is just as impressive, Adkins offering up the refrain of You’re always in my head/ You’re just what I wanted/ I live in constant debt/ To feel you, invented. The emotion of the song really comes across by the time it starts building (around the 4:30 mark), and the electric guitars come back in and play off Adkins’ passionate vocals until the tune fades out. It’s far and away one of the best songs I’ve heard by the band, and is definitely one of Invented’s best tracks.
Mixtape is less wordy than the previous track, but again concerns the “troubled relationship” theme that the band uses a lot. Continuing the theme from Movielike (breakups, sadness, being alone), Mixtape’s refrain of You don’t get to walk away, walk away now/ It’s too late, you can’t walk away, walk away now encapsulates the sorts of emotions and feelings that go along with such situations. Invented and Mixtape are incredible album closers, packing as much tenderness, emotion and raw subdued energy into thirteen and a half minutes as possible.
In closing, Jimmy Eat World has really crafted a beautiful record with Invented. While it isn’t as “catchy” or guitar-heavy as their bigger releases, it’s a wonderful collection of mature, expertly-crafted songs that find the band at its very best.
Jimmy Eat World has been around long enough to be able to branch out a little bit, and if this record is any indication, I can only imagine where they’ll go from here.