R.E.M. In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 (Warner Bros.)
Is it heresy to suggest that R.E.M.’s last 15 years can be handily summed up in one tidy, tuneful package? Probably, but this set (which includes an extra limited-edition CD of rarities and B sides) is the band’s most user-friendly album — an ideal circumstance that many best-ofs fall far short of achieving. Weepy keepers like ”Losing My Religion” and ”Everybody Hurts” serve as reminders that these guys roundly deserved their day in the Top 40 sun, while two new songs, ”Bad Day” and ”Animal,” fall firmly within the group’s tradition of beatific/moody sing-alongs you can’t get out of your head. If the end of R.E.M. as we know it is indeed imminent — and it seems to be — this collection of memories still feels fine.