So we're still saying goodbye to R.E.M. As a further method of coping, both Liz and I have compiled our 10 favorite R.E.M. songs, some known, some unknown, some from albums you may not own if you're pretty sure they stopped recording with Automatic (spoiler: they didn't!). Additionally, if you're in New York we'd love to have you come raise a glass and shout THAT'S GREAT IT STARTS WITH AN EARTHQUAKE etc etc along with us when I DJ this R.E.M. tribute night on Thursday in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
The Facebook RSVP is here, where you can leave song requests. We'd love to see you/sing/cry with you.
For now, though, let's take a look at the living document of R.E.M. masterpieces, as selected by Liz and myself.
Russ's 10 Favorite R.E.M. songs with possibly related commentary (in arbitrary order):
"Country Feedback" (Out Of Time)
It took me an incredibly long time to ever hear Out Of Time entirely, mostly because I'd been tricked by the radio into thinking it was a very silly album that also had "Losing My Religion" on it. Then I heard this song and my life was changed forever. Forever. This song would have been one of the ones that, if I'd ever seen them live and they'd performed it, would have had me come close to believing there was a god who was benevolent towards me, instead of god basically being Nick Cave and having it out for me and also doing a fuck ton of heroin.
"Sad Professor" (UP)
UP is such a divisive album. It's not something I understand because everyone I hear Stipe sing "I hate how I wound up" on this song, I cry. Instantly. This was the very first song I ever played out DJing pop music.
"Find The River" (Automatic For The People)
Here's the thing about Automatic For The People that I realized in compiling this list: you always think the song that really kills you is "Nightswimming", but it isn't. It's like a friend of mine who once thought Neon Bible ended on 'No Cars Go"--the version she'd downloaded didn't have "My Body Is A Cage", and thusly her experience of the record was something entirely different. "Nightswimming" wouldn't work without "Find The River"
I have got to find the river,
Bergamot and vetiver
Run through my head and fall away
Leave the road and memorize
This life that pass before my eyes
Nothing is going my way
"Nightswimming" is plenty pretty, sure, but "Find The River" is where the "oh, fuck, I can do this, I can make it through life" facet of Automatic For The People actually comes from. "Nightswimming" is a great song. "Find The River" is a mission statement. Admittedly, though, the way the work best is holding hands, the personal statement of "Nightswimming" flowing into the cool hopeful melancholy of "Find The River." They belong together, like a procession, like water.
"Strange Currencies" (Monster)
I remember listening to this song over and over again, in the days before having the internet, to try and discern lyrics. I'd catch them in snippets and fragments, something about a chance a second chance a third chance and signing your name secret love, and I couldn't ever recover from how devastatingly, simply beautiful this little waltz is.
"E-Bow The Letter" (New Adventures In Hi-Fi)
The chorus...oh, god, the chorus.
"So. Central Rain" (Reckoning)
This was the very first version of "So. Central Rain" I'd ever heard, from a dubbed cassette of R.E.M. b-sides. At the time I wrote it out as "bee-sides" because that's what Tori Amos did and Tori Amos was everything to me. I learned to drive partially to this cassette, taught by my grandfather who absolutely hated this version of this song. "Why's he so sorry?", my grandfather would ask me in response to this song, "what's his problem? What's this fella got to be sorry about, he's singing."
When UP came out, I bought the CD and taped it for my car. My girlfriend at the time hated Michael Stipe's voice, but liked this song because she worked at Target and felt as though she could relate. Also, she thought Stipe said "dayslipper".
"Leaving New York" (Around The Sun)
This song should be taken as textbook proof of this band's absolute greatness. Around The Sun is really the only shit record they ever made, and this song is one of the most gorgeous things they ever recorded, and it's on it. So, um, write any of their stuff off at your own risk. I was going to write a story here about a girlfriend who lived in New York when I lived in Atlanta and how this song meant shit to me then but "the loneliness it wears me out, it lies in wait".
"Saturn Return" (Reveal)
Reveal is such a cute, autumnal record that's so colored in wistful loss, the good kind, the kind that feels a little like being about to cry from a good thing, and this song is the reason why.
"Drive" (Automatic For The People)
Growing up in Atlanta, the modern rock radio station always played this version, the full band rock version, of "Drive". I had no idea there was any other version for most of my life.
Liz's 10 Favorite R.E.M. songs with no related commentary (in semi-random order):
1. "Country Feedback" (Out of Time)
"This film is on, on a maddening loop / These clothes ... These clothes don't fit us right / And I'm to blame"
(*note: Apparently Russ and I are in good company because in this live version from 2003, included on the band's Best Of compilation In Time, Michael S. says it's his favorite song too.)
2. "E-Bow the Letter" (New Adventures in Hi-Fi)
"Dreamin' of Maria Callas, whoever she is / This fame thing, I don't get it"
3. "Half A World Away" (Out of Time)
"I had too much to drink / I didn't think, I didn't think of you / I guess that's all I needed"
4. "You Are the Everything" (Green)
"The stars are the greatest thing you've ever seen, and they're there for you / For you alone, you are the everything"
5. "Let Me In" (Monster)
"He gathered up his loved ones and he brought them all around / To say goodbye, nice try"
6. "Blue" (Collapse Into Now)
"I want me / I want it all / I want sensational, irresistible / This is my time and I am thrilled to be alive"
7. "Losing My Religion" (Out of Time)
"Every whisper / Of every waking hour / I'm choosing my confessions / Trying to keep an eye on you, like a hurt, lost and blinded fool"
8. "Drive" (Automatic For The People)
"Hey, kids, rock 'n' roll / Nobody tells you where to go"
9. "So. Central Rain" (Reckoning)
"Did you never call? / I waited for your call"
10. "Everybody Hurts" (Automatic For The People)
"Everybody hurts / Take comfort in your friends"