March 8, 2011, marked the release of R.E.M.’s 15th studio album, Collapse Into Now, easily one of the band’s most diverse offerings, and undeniably one of their finest. The Independent, UK lauded the record for its “recurrent themes of conclusion, starting over and rebuilding [which] lend it a muscular sense of purpose.” In the opinion of many reviewers Collapse went from strength to strength, highlighted by powerful opener Discoverer, rockers like All The Best and Alligator which gave fans something to sink their collective teeth into, along with gorgeously reflective tracks like It Happened Today, Uberlin, Oh My Heart, and Walk It Back which revealed a band still capable of situating the majestically elegiac alongside the primitive and howling. It was a powerful concoction and left many wondering into which direction the band would go next.

Little did anyone realize at the time that six months later it would be “time to get on with the rest…” as Michael sang in the chorus of All The Best. But the clues were there as Michael said: the lyrics, not to mention the photo of the band on the album cover waving goodbye. The band would break up six months later after an announcement on remhq.com. R.E.M.’s final time playing “out” would be at Hansa Studios in Berlin:

The release of Collapse Into Now was followed by an equally impressive film project, spearheaded by Michael who hand-selected a host of directors, each tasked with setting the music from a particular song from the band’s final studio album to film. In an interview with NME.com Michael said, “It was really fun for me to curate, working with all these different artists, and seeing how they interpreted the songs. The thing that was surprising is how much they interlockingly work, like an album.” Directors such as Sam Taylor-Wood, Dominic DeJoseph, Jim Herbert, Jem Cohen, Jim McKay, Sophie Calle, Lance Bangs, Albert Maysles, and Tom Gilroy were among the luminaries. The nytimes.com covered the Project’s exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery in NYC.

July 2011 was a fertile month for the band as the 25th anniversary edition of Lifes Rich Pageant was released on the 13th. The remastered version of the 1986 classic featured an extra disc including the Athens Demos along with all-new liner notes by music journalist and author Parke Puterbaugh. The 2CD package was presented in a lift-top box with a poster and four postcards. Read the Reviews

I think this is a good idea with a fairly straightforward note of reflection on the past year with some of the best things written collated– pieces from Grantland, Atlantic, American Songwriter, GQ come to mind but there might be others too with the CIN and PLPHPTPG reviews and maybe the Live At Hansa footage and IHT remix pages also linked up . . . sort of a HQ Greatest Hits of the year . . . and anything nice written about the Christmas single if you know of much along those lines