It’s been seven years since Counting Crows’ last album, 2014’s underwhelming Somewhere Under Wonderland. That release came six years after another lackluster effort, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.
Which means it’s been nearly two decades since the last great Counting Crows album, 2002’s Hard Candy. That release capped off a fabulous four-album run for the alt rock band, one that promised a long and brilliant career.
It’s been tough to find songs to highlight from my sister Amy’s list of favorites because most of them have shown up on the blog already, many of them a decade or so back.
I bet Amy’s list would have looked almost exactly the same 15 years ago, which says something about how often she explores new music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My easy pick for the best album of 1993 is August and Everything After, the debut release by Counting Crows. I’ve talked about doing a theme week (or two) on great debut albums, and this one would surely be near the top of that list as well.
The California-based band had formed just a couple of years before this album’s release, and sparked a bidding war among major labels who heard their demo tapes. They landed T Bone Burnett as producer and knocked out this collection of literate folk rock tunes. The album sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and placed three singles on the Hot 100 (including ‘Mr. Jones,’ which reached #5).
When today’s random song popped up, I was reminded of how disappointed I was in Counting Crows’ 2008 album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.
The concept was half an album of upbeat songs and half an album of slow ballads. What they ended up with was a Goldilocks selection without anything that was “just right.” The first half was annoying and off-putting while the second half put me to sleep.
My choice for Counting Crows’ best album is a close contest between their 1993 debut August and Everything After and their fourth release, 2002’s Hard Candy. Forced to choose, I would likely side with Hard Candy.
Today’s random SOTD, ‘Carriage,’ is a big reason why. This is a beautiful and poignant song that plays to Adam Duritz’s strengths as a lyricist and vocalist and gives the band plenty of space to fill a rather sparse song with moments of musical grace.