R.E.M. - Murmur (1983), 8/10

Murmur is a cohesive and dazzlingly bright debut from a band that would continue to expand on this sound in creative ways for years to come. This maturity partially stems from their already having worked through the kinks on their equally gorgeous Chronic Town EP, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Murmur is a masterful recording and overflowing with elegantly arranged songs. It is also, in my view, the most grounded yet cryptic record they ever released. The whole album is brilliant with the first side hitting quite hard from the beginning, and the second half shining particularly well with Buck's contributions on guitar. Stipe's vocal delivery is truly filled with emotion in every performance and balances perfectly with each song's storytelling arc. There are moments in between where the music lacks a necessary sense of urgency, but the majority sparkle with a delectable buzzing and resounding joy. Songs like “Moral Kiosk” or “Shaking Through” exhibit boundless potential in songwriting that foreshadow a style preceding hits from Automatic for the People. Not mentioning Stipe’s lyrics and wordplay would be silly, as they add a serious depth to what otherwise may sound like typical, albeit very catchy and layered, eighties pop music. He clearly draws from true inspiration along with a healthy sense of humor to create songs with such masterful prose. All of this backed by a band brimming with bright, springy energy give the album an endless supply of buoyant momentum and a seemingly illimitable charisma. There is an individual appeal to Murmur even within R.E.M.’s impressively varied evolution as a band within their career, but luckily we were gifted with another twenty eight wonderful years of music from the group.