Analogue Music | The Top 75 Counting Crows Songs Ever: No. 26 to 50

The Top 75 Counting Crows Songs Ever: No. 26 to 50

By John Barber Matt Conner Mark Geil Glenn McCarty Pete Peterson PC Walker

This middle section of the countdown is an interesting mix of personal favorites and divisive singles. It was easy for those of us making these selections to become frustrated with each other at times when a personal favorite was not appreciated by the whole. Then again, that's the thrill of an exercise like this, the way you learn to mine for new insights from someone else's perspective. It's the joy in presenting your side for a song that deserved so much better (ahem, "Speedway").

Click here for Part One (No. 75 to 51).

Read below for Part Two (No. 50 to 26).

Click here for Part Three (No. 25 to 1).

50. “Carriage” from Hard Candy

One of the joys of rediscovering deep Crows cuts for the countdown is finding unexpected new corners of songs. And, I’ll confess, I can’t stop being haunted by the trumpet solo on “Carriage.” Go ahead, check out the version on Echoes of the Outlaw Roadshow album. Reach out and plant your flag in a declarative statement of meaning about this one. Nope. It floats just out of reach, a soap bubble of finger-plucked acoustic guitar and Rhodes keyboard, asking questions about the “consequence of actually feeling” and what relationships add up to. (GM)

49. “Dislocation” from Somewhere Under Wonderland

“It’s about feeling yourself get divorced from the world and not knowing how you fit in as part of it,” Adam said in an interview about this song. And, man, does it cover a lot of ground, from mentions of birthday cards and Roswell aliens to taking shots and girlie magazines—and other behind-closed-doors activities—to a thrilling middle section which implores, “Wake up the congregation / we will see the light tonight.” This one cranks with a muscular lead guitar and a thumping rhythm section, and, maybe it’s just the optimist in me, but I want to believe that there’s hope under the ashes, a “dodo bird with polio,” if you will. Maybe we all live “between the boom boom crash and the fade away,” and we’re waiting to be woken up. (GM)

48. “Hanginaround” from This Desert Life

The in-studio clapping at the end tells the story here. Here is a fun, light, and clappy song that plays counter to so much maudlin moping. The conceit played for broad appeal; “Hanginaround” was the band’s highest charting song on Billboard’s Hot 100. The groove in the guitar lick and the piano loops shape a decidedly bright spot in the band’s repertoire—too bright for some. It’s more dismissive than rosy, though, declaring, “I might be going nowhere, but I’m going to enjoy myself on the way.” (MG)

47. “Come Around” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

This might be the single most underrated song in the Crows catalog. It would never top a single fan’s list of favorites, yet it’s not only a great midtempo number, it’s a meaningful musical missive on the need to be present. The past is gone. The future is unknown. Our best selves can be found recognizing both of these truths and living in the resulting tension. It’s too bad a brighter spotlight wasn’t placed on this song when first released, because it’s a true jewel in Duritz’s songwriting canon. (MC)

46. “Speedway” from This Desert Life

“The bottom line,” sings Duritz, “is you don’t know how much I feel.” The pains of a one-sided relationship, when the heart is so invested in something that does not or cannot reciprocate. From this, Duritz tries to get healthy, which introduces my single favorite couplet in any Crows song: "I'm just trying to get myself some gravity / You're just trying to get me to stay." One side needs time and distance to come to grips with the new normal, with a constant such as gravity. The other side is just reaching, striving for togetherness. Duritz sings the line, but I think he's the one desperately reaching. (MC)

45. “Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes To Hollywood)” from Hard Candy

Nearly everything I love about Crows is based in sorrow. Misery loves company, as they say, and the Crows have provided the soundtrack to some of our darkest moments. However, it’s not all bleak in the Crows catalog—at least musically speaking—so even as the lyrics fit right in line with other songs about “dreams slipping,” this pop/rock jam makes you move like few other Crows tracks. In concert, it’s a full-band, feel-good moment intended to send the crowd home happy. (MC)

44. “Accidentally in Love” from the Shrek soundtrack

There was a minute, just a minute, where the Crows were pop music gods. It’s long past, and they never courted it, but it happened. And this song is exhibit A. It’s an absolute pop gem, that hit at just the right time, on just the right soundtrack. And while it’s a simple, poppy tune, it includes very Crows-ish lines like, “These lines of lightning mean we're never alone.” It’s infectious and if you say you don’t like it, I know you’re lying. (JB)

43. “Good Time” from Hard Candy

My heart breaks from the moment Charlie and Immy come in on the intro. This devastatingly tender track from Hard Candy rudely interrupts the pure pop bliss of the album’s first two tracks to expose Duritz’s desperate heart and earnest plea. As the perspective shifts from “he” to “you” to “I,” Duritz reminds us that we all have the same base needs and desires. We all hope to have a good time, just like everybody else. None of us want to fall apart. Too bad it’s too painful to admit most days. (MC)

42. “If I Could Give All My Love (Or Richard Manuel Is Dead)” from Hard Candy

Being stuck is a constant theme in Crows’ songs, and this one continues that trend. What sets this track apart is the impetus for its writing. The news came across the wire that Richard Manuel, a founding member of The Band, had died, and Adam was struck by the overwhelming impermanence of life. But beyond all of the usual Crows symbolism, “If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead)” is a stand out, because it’s a tight, efficient piece of pop songwriting. Some of the best moments from Hard Candy come from this song. “Well, it was cold when I awoke/ And the day was halfway done/ Nearly spring in San Francisco/ And I cannot feel the sun” is among Duritz’s best. Ultimately, this is a song about how time is running out on all of us, and life is too short to let other people weigh us down. (JB)

41. “Chelsea” from Across a Wire

There is a tinge of anguish side-by-side with charming music in this song that just kills me. It is so easy to sing along with that you forget you are singing about the heartbreak of disconnection and wishing for things to be different. “It's good for everybody to hurt somebody once in a while” makes you cock your head in disagreement before he redeems himself with “the things I do to people I love shouldn’t be allowed.” That sort of internal ride in two lines is several kinds of beautiful. (PC)

40. “Ghost Train” from August and Everything After

Lost relationships. Relationships long gone. There is something too familiar for us in this song. Maybe it is “the one that got away” or maybe it was “the one that crashed and burned” like a locomotive off the rails into the ocean. Either way, there is something familiar for those who have ever sat a little too long with the memories of past relationships. (PC)

39. “Time and Time Again” from August and Everything After

The whole perpetually lonely thing isn’t a schtick for Duritz. It’s almost as if he’s taken some monastic vow, a devout bond that once for all dedicated his life to loneliness. The ties are found as far back as his earliest work, when on this August classic, Duritz compares not being lonely to other miracles: "I wanted the ocean to cover over me / I wanna sink slowly without getting wet / Maybe someday, I won't be so lonely / And I'll walk on water every chance I get." Adam has as much a chance at performing some Christ-like miracle as he does finding fulfillment and he’s been beautifully singing about it ever since. (MC)

38. “Colorblind” from This Desert Life

A beautiful song with pretty dark turmoil within. It is very poetic in its attempt to communicate some significant inner-struggle. You get the sense this is not about some girl along the way. This is wrestling and grappling with something within. When you listen and then read the lyrics, you can begin to feel the weight of something that is hard, even for AD, to define. (PC)

37. “Holiday in Spain” from Hard Candy

I love the laid-back nature of this song. There is something almost emotionless about it, and as someone who has soaked up all the Counting Crows emotion, I very much appreciate a song that is not particularly heartbreaking or manic in any direction. Sometimes it is fun to fantasize about nothing at all. Let’s just talk about going to Spain, stirring shit up, and cutting out of there. Yeah, let’s do that. (PC)

36. “Children In Bloom” from Recovering the Satellites

I don’t know what happened to Adam’s sister, but I do know this: children grow up. And they all have to claim their lives for themselves. If they spend their lives just waiting for someone to come and save them, they’ll die, right in the middle of their bloom. And Nicole (and by extension, all of us) can’t ever go back. It’s now or never. We’re all dying on the vine and we’ve got to get out of the sun. This is an essential Counting Crows song in that all of the hallmarks are here - sleep, the circus, a girl’s name. “Children in Bloom” cranks up the electric guitars in a way that few Crows songs do, and Adam cranks the drama all the way up to an 11, too. (JB)

35. “Daylight Fading” from Recovering the Satellites

Sure, looking back after two decades, it might sound a bit too much like ‘90s college rock—or too much like the Wallflowers—for some. And on an album like Satellites, it might get overshadowed, but what it does do is pretty dang fine with me. There’s the sudden swerves from major to minor keys, the vocal harmonies, plus, of course. the “la la’s” on the bridge into a perfectly-timed guitar lick.

Oh, and the lyric, oh geez, is the lyric perfect at metaphorically capturing the instinct for us wide-eyed dreamers to run away from a relationship way too soon, when our heart is telling us things are broken beyond repair. “When we see the early signs of daylight fading / We leave just before it's gone.” And this one: “All the anger and the eloquence are bleeding into fear.” If there ever was a song that whispered “give in to your emotions,” Palpatine-style, this one was it. (GM)

34. “Another Horsedreamer's Blues” from Recovering the Satellites

This song has so many signature Crows elements: dark minor key, concrete details amidst ambiguous metaphor, a girl’s first name, an obscure literary reference. Is Margery a prostitute? Is there any resolution to her desperation? The unanswered questions lie in contrast to the remarkable character development that’s accomplished in just four and a half minutes. Notice the clever juxtaposition of a girl’s innocent love of horses and the seediness of gambling on them. By the time we hear the frantic Wurlitzer solo, we realize Margery’s desperation, and know that every day for her is a gamble. (MG)

33. “Miller's Angels” from Recovering the Satellites

Back when an album’s track order seemed to matter, this song seemed to me the perfect complement to its lead-in on Satellites, “Have You Seen Me Lately” For all of the bluster and agony of the song before it, “Miller’s Angels” has always seemed to fit my temperament more, the way it drifts from the philosophical questions about right and wrong to the image of Miller, idly caressing his girl while he stares up at the sky. What comes out of the blue sky? I’ve always thought the answer to this question lay in one of the song’s opening phrases: “Children dreaming of wrong and right / wrapped in grace and sin.” Where do the self-destructive choices come from? Why do we make them?

I feel like I’ve used the word “vulnerable” at least a couple times in this countdown, and probably “haunting,” too, but everything about this song earns those descriptors. The pedal steel and acoustic guitars are brought just forward enough in the mix for my taste. And this song contains, inexplicably, one of my Top 5 Crows lyrics: “In the shadow of God's unwavering love / I am a fortunate son.” Yes, I am. (GM)

32. “Scarecrow” from Somewhere Under Wonderland

For a word nerd like me, “Scarecrow” is a stick of lyrical dynamite. I could re-print whole verses here, but I don’t think I’ve got the space. Of course there’s “scarecrow, snowman, freakshow,” as well as “spy vs. spy” rhymed with “where the bomber jets fly.” But how about a couplet like, “I fell out of love in the snowbound days / Riding the subway in a Valium haze”? Sheesh.

What I really dig is the sheer ground this song covers. Without such rock-solid construction, this could easily spin wildly out of control. But it never does, even when it takes a left turn into the swirling bridge around the two minute mark—“all the sudden light inside you dies/Maybe you’re going on alone…” —then doesn’t give you a chance to swallow that little nugget before swerving through a mention of “wedding rings,” and right back into the crunching guitar under the couplet, “She was married alive in a Moscow surgery / Hoping to die in a cold war nursery.”

It mostly resists the urge to go all hippie-jam bananas until the final sixty seconds or so, when the Hammond organ cranks up in a wall of sound behind a wailing lead guitar. But, again, it’s so tight, that it gets in and out, leaving that Hammond ringing in your ears. (GM)

31. “Sundays” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

Who knew nihilism could be so compelling? At first, Duritz’s bitterness is aimed outward and sounds petulant but it’s not long before the anger and acidity is turned inward and melts away, revealing an exposed desperation, a life with nothing to cling to. “I don’t believe in anything, in anything,” sings Duritz by song’s end, a repeated refrain that moves the listener to empathize. (MC)

30. “Washington Square” from Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings

The melancholy start to the “Sunday Morning” half of SN&SM, “Washington Square” is a tender, homesick elegy. Touring musicians know the strain of the road as acutely as anyone, which may be why “road” songs tend to have such an emotional punch. Think “The Load Out” or “Turn the Page.” Here, the Crows have taken the first-hand emotion of a road song and expanded it with a more general theme of dislocation, so it resonates even more broadly. And what musician’s—or music lover’s—heart doesn’t break at the opening line: “I sold my piano. It couldn’t come with me.” Don’t miss the brilliant layering of instruments. The piano at the end is tinkling rain, bright at the thought of returning home but sad that the notion is only imagined. (MG)

29. “Omaha” from August and Everything After

You simply cannot beat a turn of phrase like, “Get right to the heart of matters / It's the heart that matters more.” I’d buy a barnwood frame at Homegoods if that phrase was written in a fancy cursive font. The whole song portrays a sense of the mundane. Life has a way of settling into seasons that seem to go on forever. Growing up in the midwest, in the middle of nowhere (like Omaha), the emotional feeling of the mundane is tangible. Yet this great line repeated in the chorus over and over keeps us focused on what matters most. (PC)

28. “Perfect Blue Buildings” from August and Everything After

The Crows didn’t play this one live for a long time, and if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because it’s just too hard. The places that this song takes you are dark and deep, and if I were them, I’m not sure I’d want to go there in front of an audience. That said, “Perfect Blue Buildings” is the ultimate song for wallowing in sadness. Whether or not you can directly identify with the themes here of addiction and depression, everyone finds themselves in here. “There’s a skeleton in every man’s house,” after all. And then, just when you’re at your lowest, and you just want to keep your self away, the song fades out, leading straight into “Anna Begins” (a sequencing masterpiece). Sometimes, you just want to get a little oblivion, baby. (JB)

27. “God Of Ocean Tides” from Somewhere Under Wonderland

The first time I heard this song was at a live show at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville. The Wonderland album wasn’t out yet, and the last album from the Crows, Underwater Sunshine, was something I had so much trouble connecting with that I’d effectively said goodbye to my favorite band, fearing they’d gone the way of so many other greats that had stayed past their welcome.

When Adam said they were going to sing something new, I feared the worst. But when this song rolled over us, I felt like I was a witness to resurrection. Not only were they back, but they were back BIG. The song is a gem and contains one of my favorite images in the whole of the Crows catalog, an image of the lost world of youth: “Colored lights and birthday cakes / Candle wax on paper plates.” That bit about the wax is such a perfect little detail. It does exactly what good writing should, it snaps me immediately into the world of the poet. (PP)

26. “Goodnight L.A.” from Hard Candy

The hopeless romantic stays up all night thinking about love. Sometimes it is love he cannot get. Sometimes it is love lost. Sometimes it's just love as a concept. You only need to listen to a few Counting Crows songs (pick any you wish) to know Adam Duritz is kept awake at night often thinking about love; in this case he’s been kept awake for 38 hours. (PC)