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Hard Candy

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Album Review

Hard Candy is the sound of a band at a creative and poetic summit. Over three previous studio recordings, Counting Crows have moved through varied musical territories as a way of conveying emotion through performance, texture, and nuance, the place where the mood meets the heart meets the mind. Hard Candy is both a radical departure from the band's previous method of recording, and contextually an affirmation of what sets them apart from virtually every other band on the rock & roll scene: their commitment to songwriting as craft. These 13 tracks are strongly committed to conveying a song in the hook rather than in the lyric. They are tight, crisp, and razor-sharp pop songs on a bright, shiny, rock record. Every backing vocal, every lilting string, trumpet line, or piano run, was meticulously crafted and scripted into this invigorating musical architecture — and lyrically, Adam Duritz offers at least as much as he's given on any other album. The set opens with the title track, a wide-open 4/4 rocker illustrated by shimmering piano lines and ringing Byrds-like 12-string electric guitars punching up the middle. Duritz sings with an Allen Ginsberg-like heroic candor: "On certain Sundays in November when the weather bothers me/I empty drawers of other summers/where my shadows used to be...You send your lover off to China and you wait for her to call/You put your girl up on a pedestal and you wait for her to fall/I put my summers back in a letter/All the regrets you can't forget are somehow pressed upon a picture in the face of such an ordinary girl." These lines reflect the entwined themes that run through virtually every song on the record: memory, the regret of loss due to ignorance, and pervasive loneliness in everyday life. Even the humorous songs here, such as the first single, "American Girls," offer candid meditations on these subjects. Other tracks, such as "Butterfly Reverse," co-written with Ryan Adams, offer stunningly textured instrumentation and wondrously pastoral pop melodies accented by a grand piano holding the middle against a huge wash of fawning strings and rim shots as the lyrics drip like dirty rainwater into a puddle in the middle of the street. Ultimately, this record, with its many seeming aberrations, will no doubt attract new fans without alienating the old. These 13 stories are as wondrously accessible in their sheeny glory, yet as moving and profound as anything pop music has to offer.

Customer Reviews

TBTR: Track by Track Review of Hard Candy

I consider Counting Crows somewhat of an "aquired taste" band. I didn't really like them at first, but after only a few listens, I was forever hooked. Adam Duritz then took the place as one of my top 5 favorite and most respected songwriters ever. 1.) Hard Candy - A meaningful tune about how all the things in your life that mean so much to you can suddenly find themselves to be "just the same hard candy that you're remembering again." It is very emotional yet upbeat. The lyrics are deep, but not too deep. It's also pretty catchy, but mainly it's just flat out well-written. Original in pretty much every way. (5 stars) 2.) American Girls - The big single featuring Sheryl Crow. Obviously more radio-friendly than past CC tunes, but it doesn't even begin to bother a huge fan such as myself. The lyrics are good, the melody is great, and it's just an overall fun tune. (5 stars) 3.) Good Time - This one might take you awhile to get into. After listening to the live version, I really appreciate it a lot more. It's very well-written as well as perfectly arranged (especially the wah effect on the guitar and the banjo at certain points in the verse). Fairly catchy, but also fairly long. Give it time and it will grow on you. (4 stars) 4.) If I Could Give All My Love (Richard Manuel Is Dead) - Here, the CC's drift towards an almost rock-country sound, reminding me specifically of the Eagles (especially the main guitar riff). Great arrangement, catchy to a T. Well-written again, as well as meaningful in lyric. No complaints. (5 stars) 5.) Goodnight L.A. - Another tune that took me some time. It's a new CC favorite amoungst fans, but it's very simple and a bit on the long side. It's still great once you give it some time. The lyrics are again meaningful, and the arrangement is classy. I'd personally give this somewhere around a 4.5, rounding to (5 stars). 6.) Butterfly In Reverse - A complete genre change for the guys of Counting Crows. Very classical, almost Broadway, feel for this one, but it is certainly note-worthy material. Actually very catchy, and it can be quite addicting. If you don't dig this kind of sound you may not be as impressed, but as a songwriter myself, I appreciate the difficulty in writing a song in a style that is new to you. (5 stars) 7.) Miami - Another new CC favorite amoungst fans. Simple, but still catchy. Serious, but still fun. The lyrics and tune are truely meant for each other. Great strings arrangement throughout. Hands down, one of the best on the album by far. (5 stars) 8.) New Frontier - Quirky. The guitar effects are basically genius for this funky and futuristic track. The chorus is a quieter chorus than the average chorus (usually you have a bulid-up followed by a louder chorus), but here, that works just fine. Hard not to like. (5 stars) 9.) Carriage - A little bit slower, with an intimate acoustic feel. A traditional CC song format, but with a great sax addition. All-around good, but it's a bit on the slow side and it's not quite as catchy as the former songs. It's still genius musically. (4 stars) 10.) Black and Blue - Another slow tune, but this time is a piano ballad from songmaster Duritz. The lyrics are incredible, and the melody is nicely complemented by vocal harmony throughout. Well-written, but this one again could take a few listens to warm up to. (4 stars) 11.) Why Should You Come When I Call? - Things start to pick back up again, and the upbeat memorable melodies again are brought to the speakers from Duritz's infinite creativity. You'll find this an easy favorite if you dig the CC sound. 'Nuff said. (5 stars) 12.) Up All Night (Frankie Miller Goes to Hollywood) - Even more upbeat now, but catchier than ever. I know I've been constantly repeating the terms "well-written" and "catchy," but seriously, this track is again well-written and catchy. The key change at the bridge is smooth and complementary. (5 stars) 13.) Holiday In Spain - Again, after listening to the live version of this song, I appreciated it a lot more. The lyrics, as usual, are meaningful and full of sincere emotion. It might seem a little depressing, but it's a brilliant way to wrap up this cd. The strings parts here are again great. (4 stars) 14.) Big Yellow Taxi - As you might already know, this is not an original CC song, but theY really do know how to make it their own. Vanessa Carlton adds some great flavor to this tune. It's really just a fun tune with a radio-friendly arrangment. Great even for non-Counting Crows fans. (5 stars) Final: 4.71 (rounded to a 5). Once you get yourself accustomed to the unique (but still easy-to-love) Counting Crows sound, this could become a classic in your cd collection. Duritz's lyrics (as always) hit close-to-home with personal themes from his life. Musically, the Counting Crows have become mature and more experienced with time. Just an all-around great album. Well done. Total: 4.71 -> 5 stars

Another great Counting Crows album

Hard Candy is another solid Counting Crows album; the title song perfectly encapsulates the album, with bittersweet lyrics put to an upbeat tune. This one has many great songs, including Hard Candy If I Could Give All My Love Butterfly in Reverse Miami Why Should You Come When I Call? Up All Night Holiday In Spain


An incredible collection of awe-inspiring, sorrowful music. michaelV, I am shocked. Only two good songs? Did you just forget to listen to the rest of the album?


Formed: August, 1991 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

With their angst-filled hybrid of Van Morrison, the Band, and R.E.M., Counting Crows became an overnight sensation in 1994. Only a year earlier, the band was a group of unknown musicians, filling in for the absent Van Morrison at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony; they were introduced by an enthusiastic Robbie Robertson. Early in 1993, the band recorded its debut album, August and Everything After, with T-Bone Burnett. Released in the fall, it was a dark and somber record, driven by the morose...
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