Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Collective Sounds
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, American Trad Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
You gotta hear this new Counting Crows album, they sound like a BAND! Which, I know, is a silly and possibly rockist thing to say, but sometimes you just want guys playing their instruments together with creativity and joy. (I’d say “women” too, but the Crows aren’t so integrated.) For Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation), the Crows’ first album on indie label Cooking Vinyl, they’ve recorded 15 covers with as fine a sense of group interplay as you’ll find outside the jazz world. “Covers?” I hear you say with some alarm.
Counting Crows' first album since 2008 is also their first since leaving the major label that was their home for 16 years. They've been celebrating their independence with a round of online activity – not just the usual free download (of the sleepwalky ballad, Mercy), but a competition that allows a fan to design the album sleeve. All very "now" of them, but it feels like a ploy to obscure the fact that Underwater Sunshine is a covers album.
The band sounds at home in its interpretations and as committed to these covers as any of its own songs, possibly even too much so. Somewhere around the middle of Underwater Sunshine it becomes hard to remember this isn't a record of Counting Crows songs. The combination of close-to-the-vest song choices and the band's signature nuances (primarily singer Adam Duritz's instantly recognizable warbles and soulful emotings) tends to compress the songs into identical waves of the same spirited feelings over and over.
Adam Duritz has never been shy about the music he loves. Between the showstopping rendition of Van Morrison’s “Caravan” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, annual covers-heavy Shim Sham Club shows around the century’s turn, and last year’s All My Bloody Valentines seven-covers-in-seven-days solo project, Counting Crows fans have regularly been privy to what the dreadlocked frontman spins at home. Underwater Sunshine (a play on The Soft Boys’ classic Underwater Moonlight, another Duritz favorite) mixes live staples, pop classics, and more recent material, offering the latest enjoyable, if inconsistent, glimpse into Duritz’s record collection.