365 Days of Songs (1984)
R.E.M., “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”
It’s so hard to pick one R.E.M. song, so I’m going with the one that had the biggest visceral impact when I first heard it.
It’s got everything I love about the band—a great riff by Peter Buck (double by Mike Mills’ bass); propulsive drums by Bill Berry; a perfectly melodic bassline by Mills; and a classic Michael Stipe vocal that careens between mumbly and powerfully emotive before ending with a series of wails. It’s a masterfully produced recording that knows where to throw in flourishes (like the extra reverb on the snare in the middle and end instrumental breaks) or the lightning crash piano chords that bring the song to a dramatic conclusion.
It's also a great example of early-R.E.M. lyrics—a simple, powerful chorus, and lyrics with enough imagery to gran you and enough space to project your own story into.
For what it’s worth, Chronic Town, Murmur, and Reckoning are foundational records of my musical DNA. And they’re all tied together, because my oldest brother Ed made a tape of all three and gave it to me when I was 15.