The Counting Crows aren’t touring this year beyond a handful of festival dates, but frontman Adam Duritz is keeping busy by co-hosting the podcast Underwater Sunshine with his buddy James Campion. Here are five songs he played on it recently that really blew his mind.
Sunflower Bean, ”Come for Me”
I went to see this band play in Brooklyn not long ago and it was such an in-your-face rock show. They are a trio led by Julia Cumming, who reminds me of a lot of Seventies punk singers. The guitarist [Nick Kivlen] is a cross between James Honeyman-Scott of the Pretenders and Peter Buck [of R.E.M.]. They just really knocked me out. The song is a fun, sexy, tough, little rock song. I just love it. Julia Cumming is a fucking star, really.
Hop Along, ”The Fox in Motion”
This band reminds me of Gang of Four. It has this strange indie-rock–meets-funk thing happening. The singer [Frances Quinlan] has this way of effortlessly taking it from this angular funk verse to this incredible melodic hooky thing. When she sings, she has this beautiful, breathy voice. But when she wants to hit something harsh, she pushes it so much you can feel her voice flaying under the pressure she’s putting into it. Her voice starts to whistle like it’s going to spray apart into pieces and shatter. It doesn’t ever, but it’s really cool. On this song, the lyric is this description of birds on a beach endlessly running in and out of the surf to hunt. She uses a girls trip to the beach to make statements about prey and predator and pleasure and death. She’s posing disturbing questions about where she is in the world in such a way that it scares the shit out of her. It’s a really cool song. I can’t stop singing it at times, but it’s also when you look at it lyrically, its kind of disturbing too.
Maria Taylor, ”If Only” (feat. Conor Oberst)
I’ve loved Maria Taylor for such a long time. She’s a singer/songwriter that came up on Saddle Creek at the same time as Conor Oberst. She just knocked me out years ago with this record called 11:11 that I just loved so much. Hew new album In the Next Life came out about a year or two ago. “If Only” is such a beautiful song from it. She sings this double vocal melody on it and it’s so beautiful. It reminds me of Elliott Smith when I hear it. It’s this really simple arrangement of just acoustic guitar and then these little bits of strings and xylophones come in, really sparse, to accentuate the end of it. And then these drums come in with a military building beat and a little arpeggio guitar, but it’s such a great build and a hooky song. I keep seeing it on TV shows, too. Whenever I hear it, I think of a television show.
Petal, ”Better Than You”
Petal is a singer-songwriter from Pennsylvania. Her music reminds me of Blake Babies sometimes. On this song, the guitars that are fuzzed out and grungy, but her voice is really melodic and it reminds me of Aimee Mann. She has this sob in the back of her throat that Aimee Mann had, but over a much grungier, fuzzier guitar base. She’s the guitar player in the band. This song is this really cool kind of fuzzed-out description of queer life right now. It knocked me out.
Mikaela Davis, ”Get Gone”
This is from Mikaela’s album Get Gone. I just love her band. They’re a quartet that plays, like, Sixties psychedelia. They are playing this acid-rock music, just guitar, bass drums, and then Mikaela is singing and playing this full-sized harp at the center of the stage. I don’t mean like harmonica. It’s a fucking harp right in the middle of the stage. I’ve never seen anything like it. They’d be a great band if she didn’t write great tunes, but she does write great tunes. They kill me. They’re from Rochester, New York, and this song is about driving upstate late at night. When you’re in a band, you’re always driving places in the middle of the night. It’s hard to avoid writing songs about it. It’s this weird, middle-of-the-night outlaw tale and it’s just a really cool song.