What a perfect name for a R.E.M. disc, Around the Sun. Michael Stipe’s planet has always been in a skewed orbit, rotating so that a look at any given moment reveals a landscape previously unseen. This time out the enigmatic orb is glimpsed in twilight – perhaps just the end of a day, or maybe, with Stipe having just reached age 45, something more.

Whether or not this album is the band’s swan-song, it screams "farewell" directly in songs like "Leaving New York" and metaphorically in "High Speed Train" with its what-do-I-do-now lyric of, "I flail like the antelope who jumped from the building."

But Stipe has always been hard to figure, so just because there are no shiny happy ditties like "Stand" or "Superman" here doesn’t mean the boys are tired, just reflective. "The Outsiders" gives a nod to the musical times with a smooth rap by Q Tip; Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies) also guest.

Grade: B

Around the Sun is currently available.