Monday, February 24, 2014

Some gems from R.E.M.

Saw a great article earlier this week listing the author's 10 favourite R.E.M. songs. So thought that I'd post a list of my own. I realise I've got 12, it was so hard to stop at 10.

Find the River (Automatic for the People) This song highlights what I love about R.E.M. beautiful harmonies and in this song sparse instrumentation. Find the River is a beautiful song, perhaps on the journey of life.

Nightswimming (Automatic for the People) 
Love the combination of the keys and Stipe's voice. Rosen's book on the story of their songs, says that this songs harks back the to the band's days in Athens, Georgia before they were famous, and the song does have a reminiscing feel about it.

Final Straw (Around the Sun) 
I am one a few people it seems who really liked this album. The album was released in 2004, and it clearly brings the years 2001-2004 back to mind. Final Straw is one of two protest songs written about the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Maps and Legends (Fables of the Reconstruction) 
A classic REM track with the shimmery guitars, and indecipherable lyrics. I've always thought of the "maps and legends" as people Stipe knew around Athens.

World Leader Pretend (Green) 
One song from R.E.M in which you don't need to decipher Stipe's vocals, as the CD has the lyrics printed inside. Perhaps one of the more political songs Stipe's written.
"This is my world And I am the world leader pretend This is my life And this is my time I have been given the freedom To do as I see fit." 
'Untitled' (Green) 
I guess one of the first 'bonus' tracks on a CD. The band actually switch instruments on the song. The song highlights the beautiful harmonies of Mills & Stipe. What a lovely innocent lyric:
"This world is big and so awake/ I stayed up late to hear your voice/ This light is here to keep you warm/ This song is here to keep you strong." 
Cuyahoga (Life's Rich Pageant) 
The song brings to my mind the early history of Australia, though it is written about a dying river in Ohio.
This is where they walked, swam, Hunted, danced and sang / Rewrite the book and rule the pages / Saving face, secured in faith / Bury, burn the waste behind you, / Take a picture here Take a souvenir / Cuyahoga Cuyahoga, gone 
The opening line - "Let's put our heads together and start a new country up", does give a glimmer of hope.

Country Feedback (Out of Time) 
Michael Stipe often mentions before playing this one live, that it is his favourite R.E.M. song. I love the stream of consciousness approach to the lyrics. It's one of those songs which takes on a new life when played live, with Buck extending the solo at the end.

Here's a link to R.E.M. playing the song with Neil Young.

Half a World Away (Out of Time) 
One of the saddest lyrics Stipe has written & possibly my favourite song on Out of Time (1991). Just beautiful harmonies between Mills & Stipe. 

Leave (New Adventures in Hi Fi) 
Beautiful intro, and haunting lyrics. 'New Adventures..' is one of my favourite R.E.M. albums as this is one of the standout tracks (and probably R.E.M's longest one too).

At My Most Beautiful (Up) 
One of the most romantic songs Stipe has written. Some lovely images and a beautiful music arrangement.
"at my most beautiful I count your eyelashes secretly. with every one, whisper I love you. I let you sleep. I know your closed eye watching me, listening. I thought I saw a smile. 
Perfect Circle (Murmur)
Another beautiful track .. and typical for Stipe, the lyric is vague, alluding to friendship and romance.


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