Craft Recordings has reissued two long out of print R.E.M. titles on vinyl including the band's last ever studio effort. Vinyl lovers will be pleased to know that these highly-coveted albums are both pressed on 180-gram vinyl.

R.E.M. - Around the Sun

Originally released in 2004, Around the Sun soared to the #1 spot on many European charts and landed in or near the Top 10 in others, including in the U.S. That was based on the appeal of cuts like the melancholy "Leaving New York," a cut about a relationship on the rocks that, with lyrics like "Leaving New York never easy/I saw the light fading out," could easily apply to thoughts about the fairly recent terrorist attacks of 9/11. R.E.M always make it seem effortless to come up with hooks; "Electron Blue" is a perfect example as singer Michael Stipe creates something magical and mysterious out of his sublime repetition of the two words that make up the song title. On "The Outsiders" one of the hooks is more overt, coming from rapped verses contributed by Q-Tip. It works nicely, but who could've foreseen R.E.M. working with a rapper? Stipe's wordplay is as interesting throughout as it always is, and on "High Speed Train" the lyric "I flail like the antelope who jumped from the building" seems completely normal; R.E.M. has throughout their career often been tough to figure and that's part of the fun. There is however nothing hard to grasp in closing cut and title track "Around the Sun," about facing life's great unknowns. R.E.M. here is Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills with numerous guest contributors including Ken Stringfellow and Scott McCaughey. Fans will love the packaging here too; the 2-LP set is housed in a gatefold jacket with each disc holding three songs per side and with lyrics printed on the inner sleeves.

R.E.M. - Collapse into Now

This 2011 album was the 15th studio effort from R.E.M. and they went into it with the understanding that it would by the last Stipe, Buck and Mills full-length collaboration. Perhaps in deference to that the band works here with a host of notable guest players including Patti Smith and Eddie Vedder. Vedder sings on the chorus of "It Happened Today" (as does Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras) in a capacity where you can't discern that it's his voice; Smith sings on the album's opener, the vibrant rocker "Discoverer," on the chorus and again in such a way that you would never know it was her. That's not the case on Smith's other guest spot on closing track "Blue" where she is instantly recognizable singing a part that offers a counterpoint to a Stipe spoken word manifesto. Peaches makes an appearance too, singing with Stipe on the fast and furious "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter," a fun cut with lyrics like "I feel like an alligator climbing up the escalator." Of course R.E.M. has never needed guests to achieve their delightful pop rock sound and they are at their best with familiar sounding grooves like "All the Best," the super jangly "Mine Smell like Honey" and the slow and introspective "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I." Additional musicians on this farewell effort include Lenny Kaye, Jacknife Lee, Bill Rieflin and Scott McCaughey. Collapse into Now puts a fine point on the recording career of one of America's most-beloved bands. Includes insert with lyrics.

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