Going on tour with Rob Thomas this summer! More info: www.CountingCrows.com
For more than two decades, Counting Crows have enchanted listeners worldwide with their intensely soulful and intricate take on timeless rock & roll. Now, on Somewhere Under Wonderland —their seventh studio album, the Bay Area-bred alt-rock band push into new terrain with a revamped songwriting approach that’s adventurous and visionary but still rooted in raw emotion. Propelled by the same earthy passion that’s instilled their songs since 1993’s multiplatinum August and Everything After, Counting Crows (vocalist Adam Duritz; guitarists David Bryson, David Immergluck, and Dan Vickrey; bassist Millard Powers; keyboardist Charlie Gillingham; and drummer Jim Bogios) build each of Somewhere Under Wonderland’s nine sprawling songs around rich sonic tapestries and a storytelling-esque lyricism that yields some of their most grandiose yet intimate songs so far.
The follow-up to Counting Crows’ 2012 covers album Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation), Somewhere Under Wonderland was heavily inspired by its predecessor’s reworkings of beloved songs by artists like Bob Dylan, Big Star, Gram Parsons, and Faces. “Making the covers record did something extraordinary to the band,” says Duritz. “It really opened us up to a lot of new ideas on how to make music.” After touring in support of Underwater Sunshine, the band wrote Somewhere Under Wonderland in a few feverish bursts while camped out at Duritz’s Greenwich Village loft for several weeks in the Fall of 2013, then took to Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios in parts of December and February to pair up with producer Brian Deck (a repeat Counting Crows cohort who’s also worked with Iron & Wine, The Shins, Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, and Modest Mouse). As the album came to life, the band saw that interpreting the work of other musicians helped expand their own songwriting and sound. “Singing other people’s material and taking on different perspectives, we sort of stepped away from music being solely a vehicle to express whatever I was going through,” says Duritz. “I started allowing myself to write about things I might never have allowed myself to write about in the past, and some really great songs came out of that.”
Borrowed from a line in the album’s quirky shuffling second track “Earthquake Driver,” Somewhere Under Wonderland gives a nod to Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon, which Duritz once called home. “I moved there right after all the craziness started up with us,” he says, referring to the years after the runaway success of August and Everything After. “It was kind of a place where I started over in life, and this record’s somewhat about starting over too.” Throughout Somewhere Under Wonderland, Duritz gracefully captures that feeling of renewal—a sense of beginning again despite not being entirely freed from the weight of the past—thanks to a warm and powerful vocal delivery that often embodies both hope and melancholy in a single note, as well as elegantly crafted lyrics nearly novelistic in scope. “Writing only from your own personal experience can be really limiting, so these songs are often partly telling other people’s stories, sliding in and out of the first person,” says Duritz, who notes that his recent collaboration with acclaimed playwright Stephen Belber on the in-progress play Black Sun helped reshape his lyric-writing process for Somewhere Under Wonderland.
On “Palisades Park”—Somewhere Under Wonderland’s eight-and-a-half-minute-long opener—the story centers on a fictional pair of friends stumbling into self-discovery in
the violently changing world of New York City in the late ‘70s. At turns exultant and heartbreaking, the piano-driven epic weaves in images of boxing legends Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries, flying horses and pinball machines, Edie Sedgwick and angel dust—all while spinning an oddball romance that sometimes unfolds into tender aphorism (“Real love outlives teenage lust/We could get wet and it keeps us warm”). That artful yet easy balance of outlandish imagery and poignant revelation endures throughout Somewhere Under Wonderland, with the gloriously fired-up “Elvis Went to Hollywood” telling tales of everything from motorcycle-riding aliens to Alex Chilton’s ghost and the hard-driving, harmony-laced “Scarecrow” lamenting the “American boys at the Park ‘n’ Shop/Selling their memories for a dollar a pop.” “Earthquake Driver,” meanwhile, counters its breezy melody with the restless energy harnessed in its lyrics (“What is the price for all this fame and self-absorption?/We turn ourselves into orphans/And then spend our nights alone”). And on “Dislocation,” Counting Crows offer a soaring but wistful exploration of isolation and identity in the modern age (“I am written in the radio/I dream on my TV”) that references Jackie O alongside subway trains, gamma rays, paper airplanes, birthday cakes, and bombs.
But this is all really nothing new. Counting Crows have long thrived on creating gorgeously textured songs whose lyrics subtly unfurl into ever-shifting moods. Formed in the Bay Area in the early ‘90s, the band achieved their breakout with the release of August and Everything After, a debut album produced by T Bone Burnett (former member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and producer for artists including Elvis Costello and Los Lobos). With August and Everything After ultimately selling seven million copies, Counting Crows saw their sophomore album Recovering the Satellites, produced by Gil Norton (groundbreaking producer for The Pixies, Gomez, Foo Fighters) debut at number-one upon its October 1996 release and eventually go double-platinum. Endlessly furthering their reputation as an unforgettable live act, Counting Crows went on to release This Desert Life in 1999, Hard Candy in 2002, and Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings in 2008, along with the Academy Award-nominated 2004 single “Accidentally in Love” and a host of live albums (including Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow, a 2013 release whose title alludes to the ongoing music showcase co- organized by Ryan’s Smashing Life blogger Ryan Spaulding and Duritz to boost exposure for indie bands).
With Somewhere Under Wonderland, Counting Crows continue their tradition of delivering uncompromisingly honest music grounded in pure feeling—even when the stories at the center of those songs are essentially fiction. “Palisades Park,” for instance, not only draws on Duritz’s teen years in the wilds of San Francisco, but also mines inspiration from his life as a musician “living outside the bounds of what everyone else does, and how liberating and terrifying that can be.” One of the most rewarding elements of Somewhere Under Wonderland’s point-of-view shift, according to Duritz: a joyful venturing into some less frequently plumbed corners of his mind. “I was talking to a friend who’s a songwriter, and I asked him if he thought the songs on the record were less personal than usual for me,” Duritz says of the making of Somewhere Under Wonderland. “And he told me, ‘No, they actually seem way more personal to me. I feel like in a way, you spent the past 20 years writing this epic tragedy about living with
mental illness but that’s not all there is to you. You don’t walk around depressed all day every day. You’re funny. You talk a lot of crap and you have crazy thoughts, you make these twisted associations that other people wouldn’t make. It’s not all some big tragedy. I love those records, but this is more what it’s really like to be inside your head for a little while.’”
Saw the movie MR. HOLMES today. So good. Hard sometimes to watch films about loneliness but it's lovely. -Adam
Greetings friends, and Happy NEW Year! (Pleeeeze!!)
Yes, despite the Grim Reaper’s seemingly relentless attack on SO many of our heroes (not to mention our national/global dignity!?), 2016 provided yet another bumper crop of fantastic albums!
Now more than ever, People - GET WITH THE MUSIC!!!
without further ado…
Immy’s Top “Twenty” 2016
David Bowie Blackstar
+IO:I Tinariwen - Live In Paris
A Tribe Called Quest – “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”
Jack Dejohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison – In Movement
The Fall – Sub-Lingual Tablet
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Animal Collective - Painting With
Van Der Graaf Generator – Do Not Disturb
Paul Simon – Stranger To Stranger
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Elza Soares – The Woman At The End Of The World
Ray LaMontagne - Ouroboros
Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.
The Rolling Stones – Blue And Lonesome
The Orb – COW/Chill Out, World!
Mother Feather – Mother Feather
Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
Cass McCombs – Mangy Love
Scott Walker – The Childhood Of A Leader
Cotton Mather – Death Of The Cool
Donny McCaslin – Beyond Now
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Sleaford Mods – T.C.R. (ep)
P J Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
various artists – Day Of The Dead
Harmonia - Documents 1975
Music Of Morocco - From The Library Of Congress: recorded by Paul Bowles 1959
Third Eye Foundation – Semtex (20th Anniversary Edition)
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – I’ve Got A Mind To Give Up Living: Live 1966
Herbie Mann – Live At The Whisky 1969: The Unreleased Masters
Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box (Super Deluxe Edition)
Terry Reid – The Other Side Of The River
Grateful Dead – July 1978: The Complete Recordings
The Kinks – Everybody’s In Show-Biz (Legacy Edition)
Van Morrison - …It’s Too Late To Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV & DVD
Miles Davis – Freedom Jazz Dance (The Bootleg Series Vol.5)
Frank Zappa – The Crux Of The Bisquit
Jack White – Acoustic Recordings 1998 – 2016
The Meters – A Message From The Meters: The Complete Josie, Reprise & Warner Bros. Singles 1968- 1977
Led Zeppelin – The Complete BBC Sessions
Otis Redding – Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings
various artists - (The Microcosm) Visionary Music Of Continental Europe, 1970-1986
Rock On! - Immy
Remembering the magic of the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre show (9.19.16) today...Were you there?
Want to re-live the Counting Crows show(s) you've attended? Download your show(s) below!
We are coming to South Florida on February 11th to perform for the Dolphins Cancer Challenge as part of the Celebration Concert at Hard Rock Stadium. All money goes to fund cancer research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Tickets are on sale now!
Head over to CountingCrows.RockandRollTshirts.com for deep discounts!