Musical Monday: Counting Crows

Counting Crows are one of those bands you either love or hate, I think. In my own personal experience, Counting Crows seem easier to love with females than males. Most girls I know like them. My friend Jenny loves them for some of the same reasons I do — because their lyrics are poetry, and we were both literature majors in college and appreciate a well written poem. Most of the guys I’ve known in my life have hated them, usually citing Adam Duritz’s voice as the reason for the hatred. Similar to their hatred of Dave Matthews (also a poetic song-writer). But even as a die hard DMB fan, I can see why some people think his voice is annoying. Same with Adam. They can both come across as whiny, if you are listening purely to HOW it sounds and not focusing at all on WHAT they’re saying. The reason I love both of those bands is because they accompanied me through some very difficult and important times in my life.

The first two Counting Crows albums, August and Everything After and Recovering the Satellites, are still some of my all time favorites and probably always will be. I like the way their music actually reflects the tone of the lyrics. I like the fact that the lyrics pretty much all speak to me (and my personal experience) in some way. That’s probably because they write about really universal topics, but they’re expressed in a way that seems a little bit more authentic to regular people’s actual experiences.

I started to share some lyrical excerpts here, until I realized that I can’t just choose excerpts, because lyrically you need the entire song to get the whole point. And I guess that’s one of the main reasons why I love them so much. I can’t even pick one quote or one song. Even the poppiest of Counting Crows songs, which you know (and probably hate) because they were overplayed on the radio 15 years ago, have amazingly poignant lyrics. I have to say it’s kind of amazing to me that so many of their lyrics still touch me so personally after so many years of originally being enamored with them. It is lasting and important.

I saw them live once, in Charlotte. It was pretty awesome. The Wildflowers (Jakob Dylan’s short-lived project) opened. I was there with my friends Jenny, Brooke, and Katherine. We were all disappointed that the Wallflowers sounded exactly like the CD. Why see a band live if that’s the case? But then Counting Crows blew us all away with their reinterpretations of studio tracks. And I personally was FLOORED by the way Adam conveyed the same level of emotion in his songs live (if not more) than I felt listening to the album on repeat, even though he’d performed them hundreds of times. He is always in the moment. Every performance is different.

If you’re already a fan, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you still need convincing, I would suggest always listening to their music with the lyrics in front of you. Remember when lyrics used to automatically come with an album? That first album did. And that’s probably one of the major reasons I came to love them. When lyrics are not included it makes me think the band isn’t that proud of them.

My all-time favorite Counting Crows song is Anna Begins. Start there.

Anna Begins
by Counting Crows

My friend assures me,
“It’s all or nothing.”
I am not worried.
I am not overly concerned.
My friend implores me,
“For one time only, make an exception.”
I am not worried.
Wrap her up in a package of lies,
Send her off to a coconut island.
I am not worried
I am not overly concerned
with the status of my emotions.
“Oh,” she says, “you’re changing.”
We’re always changing.

It does not bother me to say this isn’t love.
Because if you don’t want to talk about it, then it isn’t love.
And I guess I’m gonna have to live with that.
But I’m sure there’s something in a shade of grey,
or something in between.
And I can always change my name
If that’s what you mean.

My friend assures me,
“It’s all or nothing.”
But I am not really worried,
I am not overly concerned.
You try to tell yourself the things you try to tell yourself
To make yourself forget.
To make yourself forget.
I am not worried.
“If it’s love,” she said, “then we’re gonna have to think about the consequences.”
But she can’t stop shaking
and I can’t stop touching her

And this time, when kindness falls like rain
It washes her away
And Anna begins to change her mind.
“These seconds when I’m shaking
leave me shuddering for days,” she says.
And I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

But I’m not gonna break
and I’m not gonna worry about it anymore.
I’m not gonna bend,
and I’m not gonna break.
And I’m not going to worry about it anymore.
It seems like I should say, “As long as this is love…”
But it’s not all that easy,
so maybe I should
Snap her up in a butterfly net
and pin her down on a photograph album.
I am not worried
’cause I’ve done this sort of thing before.
But then I start to think about the consequences,
And I don’t get no sleep in a quiet room

And this time, when kindness falls like rain
It washes me away.
And Anna begins to change my mind.
And every time she sneezes
I believe it’s love,
And Oh lord, I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

She’s talking in her sleep.
It’s keeping me awake.
And Anna begins to toss and turn.
And every word is nonsense
but I understand,
And Oh lord, I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

Her kindness bangs a gong,
It’s moving me along.
And Anna begins to fade away.
It’s chasing me away.
She disappears,
And Oh lord,
I’m not ready for this sort of thing.

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3 Comments

  1. grantmasterflash said,

    January 12, 2010 at 5:17 am

    August and Everything After: stone. cold. classic. One of the very first albums I bought for myself. Kind of perspective-changing really, since my parents basically only listened to classical and my older sister listened to disposable pop.

  2. Debbie said,

    January 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I agree that the poetry of Duritz’s lyrics are about many universal feelings…….yet the words he chooses and music give it such personal meaning. I’ve seen them twice and was floored.
    In concert, I agree that his energy as he sings each of the songs is amazing.
    One can’t help but think that he is re-experiencing the feelings he wrote into those lyrics. His facial expressions, hand movements, energy and intimate connection to the audience………give each song even more depth.

  3. January 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Indeed, I do totally love them. I have seen them a few times–the best being with Rob at House of Blues in Chicago. Infreakingcredible show. I agree that you have to look past the voice for him and DM…even if you don’t listen to every word of the lyrics, there is just the emotion tied into each song. Sometimes a different emotion in each song…or maybe it’s just the memories that each one dredges up for me. Regardless, whenever CC rolls around on my ipod, I can’t help but smile, crank up the volume a big, and tap my toes.


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