Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
Record Reflections 1
Welcome to the first edition of Record Reflections. I won’t make any grandiose proclamations about how often I’ll post or even that these posts will be entertaining to anyone other than me, but, I wanted to use this space to talk about albums that have really influenced me. Musically, spiritually, personally, etc. music is such a huge part of my life and I wanted to have a space where I could reflect on that.
These won’t be normal record reviews. I might do some reviewish things and I might talk about some technical aspects of the albums but, mostly, I just want to use this space to talk about how these albums have affected me personally.
While these are my reflections, I’m open to suggestions. If you have any album that you would like to “hear” me talk about, please drop it in the comments below. And, if you like what you read, be sure to follow the page and share it with anyone that you think might appreciate a blog like this.
Also, I’m a 90’s kid, so, this may be a 90’s skewed blog.
So without further adieu, here’s record one:
“Clarity” by Jimmy Eat World.
Buy "Clarity" here
When you create a nearly perfect album, you don’t expect to get dropped from your record label. But, for Arizona based emo pop rockers Jimmy Eat World, that’s what happened with “Clarity.” In fact, they recorded their follow up smash hit record, “Bleed American” without a record label, but, the experience from writing and recording this record no doubt influenced that album and subsequent releases.
Following up the solid but unspectacular debut, “Static Prevails”, “Clarity” builds like a fever—slow and a little clammy at first before hitting full blown sickness (and this is on my mind, as I write this in the throes of Covid-19). “Table for glasses” sets the tone perfectly with it’s mellow, down tempo fell and oft repeated phrases—which would become a staple of the album—and then dives immediately into the driving emo pop, hook laden “Lucky Denver Mint”, which became one of the finest songs the band ever released.
The record is replete with pop melodies, solid harmonies between Tom Litton and James Adkins, a driving rhythm section and simple yet melodic guitars. The running time, as sixty minutes and thirteen songs, might scare some people off (though, sixteen of those minutes are used up by the beautiful and hypnotic album closer, “Goodbye Sky harbor.”)
You can find a million reviews of this album, most of them positive. Another review would just be white noise, so, I’ll go out and say right now that this album is a perfect ten. The mix is perfect, the arrangement, perfect, lyrics, music—all of it. There is nothing I would change about this album and it is still my favorite of theirs, even though it was not a commercial successful. It’s got pop, emo, punk rock, and even some ballads. Something for every mood and every taste level. If you like those things in an album and you don’t “own” or stream this album (I recommend the vinyl addition), go out and get it. If you don’t, don’t worry.
I remember when I first heard this album. I didn’t know who Jimmy Eat World was. My younger brother, Andy, who has always had more pop sensibilities than I have had—was playing this album in his bedroom. We lived in a mid thirties farm house in an upper middle class town called West Linn, which is about twenty miles to the eats of Portland, Oregon—which is in itself a mecca of music and creativity. These details don’t matter. I’m just trying to paint a picture. It was a cool place to grow up and music weas always central to our lives, since our dad was (and is) a professional musician.
This was probably 1999. I had just graduated high school the year before and was playing in a screamo band called Royalty Wears Thorns. He was playing in a band called Hunk Papa was a junior in high school. I didn’t care for most his music but I heard those pop hooks: “You’re not bigger than this/not better./ why can’t you learn?” I had no idea what that meant. I still don’t know if I do, but it rightfully hooked me. I was full ear worm before that was even something that people talked about. I asked him who it was and he seemed happy that I was interested in his music. And, in that moment, I really was.
I wish I could remember when I first gave the album a full listen, but I do know I listened to it a lot when I drove across the country with my buddy Wes in 2006 when I was dating a gal that lived in Delaware. That wasn’t the first time I listened to it, but it brought the whole “And how long would it take me/to walk across the United States” (“Blister”) line a whole new feel. It’s a record that is both melancholy and feel good. It’s a perfect driving record and, as one would expect from a band based out of Arizona, a great sunshine album.
But, even as I now live in Juneau, Alaska, and write this on the night of our first major snow fall of the year, I listen to it and it sounds like it was made for this climate too. I think that’s the sign of a great pop record. That’s the sign of an album that can appeal to a broad spectrum. I can’t describe the emotions I feel when I listen to this album—but I always feel them. I don’t have many specific feelings of nostalgia associated with it, but I just know it brings back a lot of good times and a lot of good feelings. It is a special record. It always will be. It still feels fresh, and new and unskippable.
In 2006, I was playing lead guitar for an emo band called Cicero and we decided to cover “Lucky Denver Mint.” I remember I was playing it for the first time and the rhythm guitarist, Paul, looked over and said I had a huge smile on my face.
That’s the album. That’s “Clarity”. It puts a ubiquitous smile on my face. It makes me feel good. Isn’t that what all good music is supposed to do?
Jimmy Eat World: "Lucky Denver Mint"
The rest of the Record Reflections Series
- Record Reflections 2: "Full Collapse" by Thursday
Episode 1 of a series of record "reviews" where the author shares their thoughts & memories about an album, instead of the technical aspects
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Justin W Price