All R.E.M. wanted to accomplish with its seventh album was the reinvention of the love song. Rather than treat the most overdone of emotions directly, Michael Stipe took an oblique approach, writing impressionistic lyrics about the way love manifests itself in loneliness (“Belong”), regret (“Country Feedback”) and, most famously, obsession (“Losing My Religion”). The music was similarly inventive. Peter Buck put down his Rickenbacker and picked up a mandolin, while Mark Bingham’s sugar-free string arrangements and Kate Pierson’s guest vocals added the kind of ethereal beauty rarely heard on a rock record.
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