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R.E.M.’s top 5 albums will live on long past their break-up

R.E.M.’s top 5 albums will live on long past their break-up (photo)

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R.E.M.’s Wednesday break-up announcement placed a bookend after 2011’s “Collapse Into Now,” officially making it the group’s final studio album (barring any unforeseen reunions). Their sound has floated and meandered since original drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. Left to their own devices, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills stayed productive, but never managed to hoist a true new classic up into their discography.

“Up” and “Around the Sun” delivered a few memorable tracks and collaborations, but none of R.E.M.’s post-1997 albums matched the levels of indie rock invention and lyrical inspiration that they achieved in the following five classics.

In fact, if you ever need to get acquainted with R.E.M. at its best, put these albums on your playlist, and prepare to understand what made them great.

murmur.jpg“Murmur” (1983)
R.E.M.’s first studio album features a band in the process of honing its sound, and you can almost hear them rising out of the mist as they announce themselves in “Radio Free Europe” and grow out of the second track, “Pilgrimage.” The album sets Stipe loose with his young-adult angst and attitude on songs such as “Moral Kiosk” and “Catapult.” The band still sounds soft-boiled, but that’s part of the charm on “Murmur.”

newadventures.jpg“New Adventures in Hi-Fi” (1996)
Often overlooked because of its different sound and place during the twilight of the Berry era, “New Adventures” boasts some of Stipe’s most feeling vocals and a rare successful journey into harder rock with “The Wake-Up Bomb.” R.E.M. rarely packaged the variety, balance and fully energized, attacking performances that made it onto this album, and it has aged well over 15 years.

pageant.jpg“Life’s Rich Pageant” (1986)
Stipe, Berry, Buck and Stipe kicked their careers into a new gear with “Life’s Rich Pageant.” The acidic lyrics and spontaneously erupting melodies that highlighted their 1980s work are in full bloom on “Begin the Begin” and “Hyena.” The whole album rolls forward with a fierce, fragile momentum and a fresh sense of discovery that couldn’t be imitated by any other band.

automatic.jpg“Automatic for the People” (1992)
Outside of R.E.M.’s core fandom and in the popular consciousness of the ’90s, “Automatic for the People” will forever be the album that defines what R.E.M. sounded like. Filled with pop gems such as “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts,” it summons an orchestral backdrop for a litany of powerful folk-infused ballads while letting Stipe crack his voice during determined leaps toward higher notes in “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” and “Ignoreland.”

document.jpg“Document” (1987)
R.E.M. made their quintessential ’80s album with “Document.” By this point, they knew how to command an audience and pass their songs around the stage with sobering effectiveness. Almost every track from “Disturbance at the Heron House” to “Oddfellows Local 151” oozes with ominous elegance, and atop all of them sits “It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” Both celebratory and aching with cynicism, this is R.E.M. at its most glorious.

Which R.E.M. albums would you add to your own list of favorites? Let us know below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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