WHO ARE THEY
Counting Crows is perhaps the only band to ever rise from coffee houses to selling 20 million albums without losing any of the earnest, everyman vibe they started with. The band wouldn't have lasted 23 years without the unlikely hit "Mr. Jones," but it's still a commendable staying power. Singer Adam Duritz updated confessional, introspective songwriting for the 1990s and had more than a few famous girlfriends. The band's legacy places Counting Crows somewhere between the Wallflowers and Dave Matthews Band on the 1990s rock spectrum, which translates to nostalgic, amphitheater crowds two decades later. And remember that earnestness – Counting Crows is a band incapable of phoning things in.
BUY THIS ALBUM
The only essential piece of the Counting Crows' catalog is the band's debut, August and Everything After. With producer T Bone Burnett, the band captured lightning with a nearly flawless blend of Van Morrison style 1970s acoustic rock and the jangly college radio style of R.E.M. and Cracker. Earnest and hook-laden, the record ran counter to the angst of grunge, producing four top-20 singles and going Platinum seven times over.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS (BEYOND AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER):
"Einstein on the Beach," 1993. Released on the DGC Rarities Volume 1 disc—and as a single—this poppy gem seemed to point toward a future as strong as August and Everything After. Instead, it's the last best song the band recorded.
"Angels of the Silences," 1996. The good-but-not-great sophomore Recovering the Satellites still charted two singles in the top 10 and sold Double Platinum, but the cracks were showing. This satisfying burst of loud guitars is the most rocking the band ever got.
"Goodnight Elisabeth," 1996. "We couldn't all be cowboys / Some of us are clowns," croons Durtiz, in a bit of accidental honesty that's become a perfect description of the dread-locked singer.
"Mrs. Potter's Lullaby," 1999. At nearly 8 minutes, this loping, piano-driven tune is full of vulnerable, dissatisfied lyrics ("I am an idiot, walking a tightrope of fortune and fame") but the band is tight and cohesive, making the most of their talents in what's ultimately one of their catchiest songs.
"Hard Candy," 2002. One of the few songs after the band's debut that truly captured the beautiful melancholy of August and Everything After.