Sound — 8
In case you aren't aware, REM shaped the post-punk alternative sound in the eighties with hits like "The One I Love" and "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)". Now, they have a brand new album that doesn't have the jangly guitars sounds that Peter Buck is known for, or the siren like vocals of bass player Mike Mills. It is unlike anything a fan of R. E. M. has ever heard. The album has one theme, Post 9/11 America. Apart from the poppy "Wanderlust", the album is slow and features very few electric instruments.
Lyrics — 10
Michael Stipe's voice is the center of this album. He sounds better than he has on the band's last two efforts. The lyrics are classic REM. They are enigmatic and can be interpreted however the listener wants. This means if you hear the song "Leaving New York" as a love song, someone else could hear it as a breakup song. You would both be right. There are some great lines in this. It brings back memories of early 90's REM.
Overall Impression — 10
I think this is their best album in at least ten years. It sounds like their 1992 classic album "Automatic For The People". This featured songs such as "Man On The Moon", "Everybody Hurts", and "Find The River". Each of these songs seems to have one that resembles it Around The Sun. Because of the lyrical intensity, powerful music, and strong message, this album deserves a 5.