Playing the role of good-time guys is easier said than done for Counting Crows.

Playing the role of good-time guys is easier said than done for Counting Crows. While the band peppers its latest release, Hard Candy, with a handful of sunny pop numbers ("American Girls"), such radio-friendly frat fare only tells half the story. Try as he might, frontman Adam Duritz, ever the hopeless romantic, can't quite get past his sad-boy melancholia (listen to "Carriage," for starters). What's more, when not attempting to rock the suburbs, the San Francisco six-piece is involved in more grown-up explorations both sonically (the Pet Sounds-era string flourishes on "Miami") and thematically ("If I Could Give All My Love" is a rumination on the death of the Band's Richard Manuel). Overall, Counting Crows has created a soundtrack for summer with Hard Candy—references to the season are scattered through the album, including the Allman Brothers-esque Southern rocker "Up All Night"—and, thanks to the production of Steve Lillywhite, it largely succeeds.—BG

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