Craft Recordings celebrates the enduring legacy of R.E.M. with vinyl reissues for two long out-of-print titles from the second half of the band’s celebrated career: 2004’s Around the Sun and 2011’s Collapse Into Now. The chart-topping Around the Sun includes such highlights as “Leaving New York,” “Aftermath,” “Electron Blue,” and “Wanderlust,” plus “The Outsiders.” Collapse Into Now, which marks the band’s 15th and final studio album, includes the singles “Überlin,” “Oh My Heart” and “It Happened Today.” Arriving July 14 and available for pre-order today, both albums were cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at Memphis Records Pressing.
Additionally, fans can find limited editions exclusively at REMHQ.com: the 2-LP Around the Sun will be available in an Opaque White colour variant, while the 1-LP Collapse Into Now can be found in Milky Clear vinyl, along with exclusive official merchandise.
One of the most revered acts to emerge from the American underground, Athens, GA’s R.E.M. was formed in 1980 by Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass), and Bill Berry (drums). An influential force in the post-punk college scene, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and multi-GRAMMY® Award winners rose to become one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands in the world, thanks to their idiosyncratic blend of brash tunefulness and poetic lyrics on such best-selling albums as Out of Time (1991), Automatic for the People (1992), and Monster (1994).
By the turn of the millennium, the band had ventured into new sonic territory, exploring electronic textures and the use of synthesizers with albums like Up (1998) and Reveal (2001). R.E.M.’s 13th LP, Around the Sun, continued that evolution. Written as America grappled with the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War, the album reflected the sombre tone of the era and found the band blending political commentary with meditations on love, loss, and a fast-changing world.
Marking the band’s final collaboration with producer Pat McCarthy (The Waterboys, U2) and their first with drummer Bill Rieflin, Around the Sun features the singles “Leaving New York” (a Top 5 hit in the UK and No.1 on Billboard’s AAA chart), “Wanderlust,” the melancholic “Aftermath,” and the trippy “Electron Blue.” Other highlights include the politically charged “Final Straw” and the poignant “Outsiders,” featuring guest vocals by rapper Q-Tip. Praised by Blender for its “arresting musical moods” and “strong choruses,” Around the Sun topped the album charts in the UK, Germany, and Sweden, among other territories, and landed at No.13 on the Billboard 200.
Not long after the release of their following album, Accelerate (2008), the members of R.E.M. collectively decided to conclude their time together with one final album. Produced by Jacknife Lee (The Cars, Taylor Swift, U2), Collapse Into Now was recorded over the course of a year in Berlin, New Orleans, and Nashville. For their 15th studio effort, the band took a broader approach to their writing, allowing for an expansive collection of songs that spoke to universal themes.
Among the highlights is “Discoverer,” one of Michael Stipe’s only autobiographical songs. Featuring an appearance by Patti Smith (who also lends her voice to closer “Blue”) the song serves as a love letter to New York City. “It’s about realizing that the city offers you this unbelievable potential and opportunity; all the things you are looking for in your teens and your twenties,” Stipe told Interview Magazine. The album also includes the joyful “Mine Smell Like Honey,” plus singles “Überlin,” “Oh My Heart,” and the soaring “It Happened Today,” featuring guest vocals by Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb. The breakneck “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter,” meanwhile, finds Stipe duetting with Peaches, with a special appearance by longtime Patti Smith guitarist, Lenny Kaye.
While the band chose not to tour behind the album, they partnered with a variety of prominent filmmakers and artists (including Sam Taylor-Wood, Jim Herbert, and James Franco), who directed music videos for each track. Speaking to Interview, Stipe explained, “The idea was to present a 21st-century version of an album. What does an album mean in the year 2011, especially to generations of people for whom the word album is an archaic term? I wanted to present an idea of what an album could be in the age of YouTube and the Internet.”
Released one year after R.E.M.’s 30th anniversary, Collapse Into Now served as a triumphant cap to the band’s celebrated career, landing in the Top 5 in the US, UK, and across Europe, and drawing praise from outlets around the globe. Uncut noted that the album “bristles and fizzes with invigorating quantities of wit and fury,” while Under the Radar declared, “You’re listening to a legendary band utterly revitalized, operating at the peak of their formidable powers.” The Village Voice hailed the album’s “signature balance of folky and punky,” while Spin mused that it “sounds like a familiar friend – reliable in all the best ways, but still capable of quietly insinuating surprises.”