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American alt-rock band Counting Crows have re-emerged onto the music scene with their seventh studio album, ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’, released on the 15th of September. This album is the band’s first release of original material since 2008’s ‘Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings’, but lead singer Adam Duritz mentioned in my interview with him the day after the album release that the new songs were predominantly inspired and informed by the band’s 2012 cover project, ‘Underwater Sunshine (Or What We Did on Our Summer Vacation)’. Duritz credits those cover versions for the revitalized energy and focus on musicianship that he and his band display to full advantage on ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’. (You can read more of Duritz’s thoughts in the full interview here.)
Rather than being a simple rehash of the introspective mood rock that made Counting Crows a staple of the ’90s, ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is a streamlined exhibition of the band’s talents. There isn’t a wasted moment on the entire album, as each track makes its own unique and interesting statement. The variety of moods and styles among the 9 tracks is refreshing, even when Duritz’s familiar stream-of-consciousness lyrical pattern turns toward the morose.
The album’s opening track ‘Palisades Park’ is a strong declaration of the band’s musical intent. The extended brass introduction tells us straight away that something new is happening here, and the rest of the song doesn’t disappoint. Laced with Duritz’s imaginative characters and geographical references as well as several broadly unrestrained instrumental sections, it conjures a sense of adventure both in its lyrics and its music.
A handful of catchy, high-energy tracks punctuate ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’, including the curiously named ‘Earthquake Driver’ and current American radio single ‘Scarecrow’. ‘Earthquake Driver’ explores the “skipping and diving” thoughts of a man trying to find motivation and purpose to his life. Its opening lyric “I was born again a little north of Disneyland / somewhere under Wonderland and Hollywood” is so engaging that it even found its way into the album’s title. ‘Scarecrow’ is similarly spirited, with an infectious “do-do-do” chorus breaking up the surreal, purposefully absurd quality of the verses. Nearly 5 minutes in length, it may be more prolonged than the average radio single, but the instrumental bridge and guitar solo are undoubtedly worth the extra time.
‘Dislocation’ is a frenetic, guitar-driven address of Duritz’s struggle with depersonalization disorder, but also with the often bizarre nature of life in the public eye. Its chorus is deceptively upbeat despite the unnerving lyrics, “I am written in the radio / I dream on my TV / I’m fading out in stereo / I don’t remember me”. ‘Elvis Went to Hollywood’ is another briskly rhythmic track with a metaphysical lyrical theme, trying to pinpoint the moment in time where pop culture went astray. In spite of that somewhat discouraging sentiment, the vigourous instrumental riffs following each chorus will renew your faith in guitar rock.
‘Cover Up the Sun’ takes a decidedly country rock turn, its upbeat rhythm and acoustic twang again belying its dark lyrics, while ‘John Appleseed’s Lament’ delves deeply into the blues. The slower paced ‘God of Ocean Tides’ provides a welcome moment of calm introspection in the middle of the album, and the album’s final song, piano ballad ‘Possibility Days’, is an elegant, ethereal contrast to the frenetic energy of the tracks immediately preceding it.
Despite the typically pessimistic feeling of the lyrics, the music on ‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is remarkably robust and inspired. Fans of Duritz’s signature introspective songwriting style won’t be disappointed by what he’s offered here, while new listeners will be drawn in by the singable choruses, upbeat rhythms and full-bodied guitar lines.
‘Somewhere Under Wonderland’ is available now on Virgin EMI Records. Counting Crows will tour the UK this November; you can find a listing of tour dates right here.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 29th September 2014 at 11:00 am
I honestly never thought it would happen but Chris Cain, bass player for American duo We Are Scientists, has answered our Quickfire Questions. I just figured he’d always be too busy to answer them. But he has! And you can read his answers below.
Stay tuned, as we’re running a q&a with the man tomorrow morning. What a great closer to the month that will be. (I know, hold yourself back. You can’t wait, can you?)
What song is your earliest musical memory?
Def Leppard’s ‘Love Bites’.
What was your favourite song as a child?
My dad was really into Foreigner. I remember loving ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ long before I was a member of the target demographic.
What song makes you laugh?
‘Manhole Inspector’, from the “Tex Hooper” sketch on Norm MacDonald’s magnificent sketch comedy album ‘Ridiculous’.
What song makes you cry?
‘Beautiful Child’, Fleetwood Mac.
What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Self Esteem’, The Offspring. It was that kinda first love.
What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
I’ve never been one of these dudes (or dudettes) who, when mad, jump around red-faced in their bedrooms listening to heavy metal. I am, though, the type who likes a good wallow. When I’m feeling low, I like to get even lower. ‘The Blue Moods of Spain’ by Spain, or ‘Devotion & Doubt’ by Richard Buckner, always do the trick.
Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
‘Ann Don’t Cry’, Pavement.
Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
All time, James Salter. Recently, Ben Lerner.
If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
Advertising, probably. Maybe a forest ranger, if I’d had any kind of balls.
If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
This becomes a question of which album you think will be least diminished by awful repetition. Maybe Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, the 1955 recording.
Thanks to Chris for answering these and thank you to Stephanie for sorting this for us.
By Mary Chang
on Sunday, 28th September 2014 at 10:00 am
La Roux‘s current single ‘Kiss and Not Tell’ has a kitschy, retro-themed feel with old fashioned tvs and candy-coloured telephones taking up most of your attention. Probably a good thing, because otherwise Elly Jackson is looking a bit awkward as a phone sex operator selling her salicious wares on late night tv. Watch the video below.
La Roux is on tour in support of current album ‘Trouble in Paradise’ in the UK in November.
By Mary Chang
on Saturday, 27th September 2014 at 10:00 am
You might do a double take watching this new Charlatans video. (Doesn’t the actor look like a young, blond Tim Burgess?) ‘Talking in Tones’ will be released on Monday (the 29th of September) The Quietus Phonographic Corporation as a limited edition 7″ single, and it’s the first taster from the band’s still untitled 12th album. Not exactly ‘The Only One I Know’, as you will see when you see the video below.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 26th September 2014 at 6:00 pm
A Sunny Day in Glasgow released their third album ‘Sea When Absent’ in August (read Carrie’s review of the LP here), but it’s taken some time for this promo video to surface. Just in time for you to put your dancing shoes on for Friday night, a pair of white plimsolls go on a tear to the tune of ‘Double Dutch’. Watch it below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th September 2014 at 6:00 pm
Prides‘ forthcoming single and firm live fan favourite ‘Out of the Blue’ now has a music video. As should be expected, the colour blue gets its day in this promo, though there’s a lot strange goings-on in here that will keep you guessing round every turn. Watch the visual for the foot-stomping single, out on the 8th of December, below.
The Glasgow trio will be on tour in the UK in October.
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