After almost five years, the Counting Crows are back with their fifth studio record, Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings, and it is a welcome return to form. After 2002's uneven Hard Candy, it seemed as if the Crows were destined to fade into the background of popular music, but their latest sees a renewed sense of energy and a rededication to crafting excellent, country-twinged rock-n-roll. While the Counting Crows have never been counted among the most original sounding bands, they do borrow from some of the best classic rock acts out there; you'll hear shades of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Band, and also the inclusion of some newer influences, namely Ryan Adams, who receives a co-writing credit on "Los Angeles." The album itself is split into two parts; the rousing first half (Saturday Nights) and the introspective and sparse second half (Sunday Mornings). The band sounds tightest and most assured while exploring the extremes of this idea. Saturday... opener "1492" is all powerhouse guitars and stinging, personal lyrics, while its Sunday... counterpart, "Washington Square," showcases lead singer Adam Duritz's ability to be both restrained and thoughtful. In the end, the Counting Crows have come a long way from their breakout hit, "Mr. Jones," and the maturity and attention to details that this album exhibits help to make it one of the better releases in their catalogue.
Recommended by Ian Lashbrook