Around the Block
It’s been three years since anything new came out from this 23-year-old household name (with the exception of the Best Of album in 2003), and quite frankly, it’s about time.The base of the new album, Around the Sun is REM’s traditional languid writing style, full of sweet melodies of unparalleled singer/songwriter appeal. The production is BMI’s same even and flawless method. The album is easy and clean from the first track â€šÃ„ÃºLeaving New Yorkâ€šÃ„Ã¹ to the album title’s namesake. All of the music revolves around Michael Stipe’s unmistakable soft and mellow alto voice, which pours smoothly over the equally mellow instrumentals. Though he has been doing this for a long time and he’s not getting any younger, Stipe’s voice remains ageless, forever preserved in that perfect “Losing My Religion” era.
With this well accomplished and polished music style in place, the band has decided to branch out only just slightly. On “The Outsiders”, the song features artist Q-Tip of Tribe Called Quest in a fairly random rap-ish/spoken work interlude. It is tried again on the song “The Ascent of Man” (this time by Stipe), which still doesn’t quite fit. The section sounds forced and out of place. Along with the incorporation of rap elements, tracks “The Ousiders” and “Electron Blue” also use electronic drum and bass beats. This is an area not quite tapped into previously by REM but still works well. The electronic beats give the songs a little extra edge; something not really expected from REM. All in all, the album fits cleanly into the band’s repertoire with just enough newness to keep them interesting.