Sound — 9
The word unrecognized comes to mind while listening to Counting Crows debut album. Not to say that they weren't popular, Adam Duritz & crew were propelled into stardom on the wings of the runaway single 'Mr. Jones'. Yet if anything August And Everything After as a whole ironically surpasses the song for which Counting Crows are most renown. The mid-tempo moodiness enthralls you immediately - from the first lonely notes to the painfully quiet finale - and from that moment on you are whisked into the lonely world of the Counting Crows. The guitars (the three of them!) play lightly in the background, almost teasing you to pick up the flashing plucks and twangs that are embedded deep in the deceptively simple sound-scape. It's things like this that make Counting Crows so amazing musically, because you can listen to 'Omaha' ten times and still find new traces of exuberant life beneath the muddy chime of the guitar. The real strength behind the band is the ability to portray moods with the flick of a switch, on 'Anna Begins Again' they cut between melancholy uneasiness and an almost enlightened, smile-inspiring chorus that only sounds 3/4ths through the song. I still believe a song could have been cut or altered, most notably 'Raining In Baltimore' which, depressing as the album can be, shifts into overdrive and just genuinely brings you down. Then again, maybe that was what Counting Crows were after?
Lyrics — 10
Adam Duritz had been in several bands before, and has perfected a unique blend of well-known past voices in music, eventually forming an emotionally driven, powerful voice that can paint the realities of love and life in shades no other man should even dare to attempt. His lyrics, either about loneliness, women, loneliness and women, or life all have a profound style - Duritz' style. His lyrical achievements on August And Everything After are amazing, truly he is one of the modern masters in expressive songwriting, "Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white And in between the moon and you the angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right" And excerpt of 'Round Here'. Duritz vocal style pairs perfectly with his lyrics, he drifts casually between his powerful crooning and spoken word passages that envelope you completely and pull you into his head where he reveals all the pains and transgressions of his sad, sad life.
Overall Impression — 9
Suffice to say, August And Every Thing after is one of the best debut albums of all time. Every song fits together perfectly, practically casting a shadow over your very consciousness, only to have Duritz and the gang cut through with a chirping strum of their guitars and an inspiring heart-on-his-sleeve quip from the nigh-constantly depressed frontman. Highly recommended, the standouts are, 'Round Here', 'Omaha', 'Mr. Jones', the mood changing 'Anna Begins' deserves mention, as does 'Rain King' and it's rocking partner 'A Murder Of One'.