R.E.M. presses on with this week's release of "Around the Sun" (Warner Bros.), which finds the veteran alt-rock outfit moving farther away from the sound of its classic albums than ever before. Songs are encircled in keyboard and string textures, and with their nearly uniform mid-tempo vibes, present a challenging listen to fans reared on the multi-faceted rock of R.E.M.'s heyday.
"Around the Sun" is the follow-up to 2001's "Reveal," which debuted at No. 6 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 412,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. First single "Leaving New York" topped out at No. 24 on Billboard's Hot Digital Tracks chart.
Beginning last weekend as part of the Vote for Change tour in Philadelphia, R.E.M. has more than 80 dates on tap in support of the album through next year. A special edition of the new set comes bundled in a two-piece wrapped box, featuring 14 four-color posters.