Counting Crows, led by singer / songwriter Adam Duritz, burst onto the alternative music
scene with their debut album “August and Everything After” in 1993. Since then, they have released three other full-length studio albums of new material (Recovering the Satellites in 1996, This Desert Life in 1999, and Hard Candy in 2002), a “best of” compilation (Films About Ghosts: The Best of Counting Crows in 2003), and two live albums (Across a Wire: Live in New York in 1998 and New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Call in 2006). A new full-length studio album, tenuously titled Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, could be released as early as 2007.
Most of Counting Crows’ music is serious and somewhat sad, even their more upbeat songs have a hint of melancholy in them, although they are not considered to be part of the emo genre. Adam Duritz’s lyrics elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary, and are the main reason I enjoy their music so much.
I’m listing the top ten Counting Crows songs in order of album release date, and, when choosing two songs from the same album, in order that they appear on the album. Each song will have a brief description as well as my favorite lyric included in the list.
1. Anna Begins – August and Everything After (1993)
“And every time she sneezes I believe it’s love / and oh lord / I’m not ready for this sort of thing”.
Anna Begins is a song about the moment when you realize that you’ve fallen in love with the person you’re with and how scary and beautiful it is all at once.
2. A Murder of One – August and Everything After (1993)
“There’s a bird that nests inside you / sleeping underneath your skin / when you open up your wings to speak / I wish you’d let me in”.
A Murder of One is a love song for the person you can’t have, the person that you would be absolutely perfect with if she weren’t already with someone else. And while it never actually comes out and says that she should leave the person she’s with, it tries to gently coax her away from that relationship and closer to freedom and happiness.
3. Catapult – Recovering the Satellites (1996)
“I wanna be the last thing that you hear / when you’re falling asleep”.
Catapult is another love song, but without the typical love song / romance images. Duritz puts a nice spin on defining romantic love here.
4. A Long December – Recovering the Satellites (1996)
“I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower / makes you talk a little lower / about the things you could not show her”
There is no worse time to be feeling lost and lonely than around the holidays. When all isn’t right with your world, December can be a very long month indeed.
5. ‘Round Here – Across a Wire: Live in New York (1998)
“Would you catch me if I was falling / would you kiss me if I was leaving / will you hold me ’cause I’m / lonely without you”.
Initially, this was one of my favorite songs off “August and Everything After”. But after repeated listenings to both versions, the live one off “Across a Wire” gets my vote, primarily due to the lines quoted above, which do not appear in the studio version of the song.
6. Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby – This Desert Life (1999)
“If dreams are like movies / then memories are films about ghosts”
This song was written for actress Monica Potter, who Adam Duritz dated briefly in the mid 90’s. It’s a sweet ode to falling in love with a character rather than a person.
7. High Life – This Desert Life (1999)
“Oh apologies / no apologies / this apology / doesn’t describe / the way / it feels to feel / for you”.
This song is perfect listening for when you have a crush (especially if, like me, you tend to get all dramatic about crushes). These are the moments right before you tell that person how you feel about her.
8. Miami – Hard Candy (2002)
“Make a circle in the sand / make a halo with your hands / I’ll make a place / for you to land”
“Miami” is an ode to the vacation love affair. Short, sweet, and lovely.
9. Holiday in Spain (2002)
“Someone stole my shoes / but there’s a couple of bananas and a bottle of booze”
Sometimes, when things get bad, anything seems like it would be better. This holiday doesn’t sound like it’s all that’s it’s cracked up to be but sometimes, everyone needs to get away.
10. Accidentally In Love – Films About Ghosts (2003)
“Well baby I surrender / to the strawberry ice cream / never ever end of all this love”.
Originally released on the Shrek 2 soundtrack, this is probably the single most optimistic and downright cheery song that Counting Crows has ever released. For that reason alone, it’s worth a listen or twelve. However, far from being typical bubble gum pop, it still has a strong lyrical presence as well as a catchy tune.