Six years since the release of Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings in 2008, Somewhere Under Wonderland is Counting Crows’ seventh studio album – and it is beginning to show.
Fans of the band won’t be disappointed by this album’s familiar contrast of fun and wordy up-beat country-rock songs with heart-wrenching ballads, over-spilling with anecdotes from lead vocalist Adam Duritz’s experiences of love and life. After all, there is something really admirable about a band that consistently continues to develop a unique sound over decades of fame.
However, it is hard to downplay the feeling that Counting Crows haven’t quite hit the mark with their most recent effort; Somewhere Under Wonderland feeling more like a step backwards than anything else. Those familiar with their older works will know that Counting Crows’ albums have a strong emphasis on lyrical content, with each song aiming to convey not only an emotion, but a story and a dialogue – whether in the form of a tongue-in-cheek rocky, upbeat track, or in an almost intrusive-seeming exploration of the darker parts of human emotions.
Somewhere along the line in the creation of Somewhere Under Wonderland, the lyrical wit of previous albums seems to unfortunately have been traded in for a nonsensical amalgamation of imagery in this album’s more upbeat songs – meaning that trying to figure out the meaning, or the story, behind tracks such as “Earthquake Driver” and “Scarecrows” seems to require the same amount of concentration and despair as trying to understand an academic essay; not necessarily what one generally looks for in an album.
That being said, “John Appleseed’s Lament” is an engaging and catchy song examining the chaos of modern American city life , which really shines out on this album, reminiscent of Counting Crows’ older style of albums such as This Desert Life.
On top of this, tracks like “God of Ocean Tides” and “Possibility Days” reassure listeners that although Somewhere Under Wonderland’s more upbeat songs may have made the transition into the somewhat abstract, Duritz’s talent for writing poetic and poignant lyrics for Counting Crows’ slower songs is sadly as unswerving as ever.