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R.E.M. & r & & r & Accelerate & r & & r & 3 STARS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & nce dubbed America's best band, R.E.M. has seen better days -- in fact, the band's last three albums have been, aside from a handful of tracks, atrocious. Now critics are saying the boys from Athens, Ga., are back in prime form with this brief disc (35 minutes total) of snappy rock songs. I'd love to agree, but I can't quite see it. This may be the band's best album since New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), but it's just a shadow of their former selves.





Still, there's plenty to like. Guitarist Peter Buck unleashes his crunchiest sounds since Monster. Michael Stipe is political as ever, but in a more obvious and clunky way than his head-scratching former ways. (My favorite R.E.M. lyric, from "It's the End of the World as We Know It": "cheesecake, jellybean, boom.") Still, an approximation of R.E.M. is better than a lot of stuff.





-- TED S. McGREGOR JR.





DOWNLOAD: "Hollow Man"





DESTROYER


Trouble in Dreams


3 STARS


& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & V & lt;/span & ancouver-based singer-songwriter Dan Bejar has always had a knack for weaving distorted narratives with cryptic lyrics, so Trouble in Dreams seems like the perfect title for Destroyer's latest offering.





While the album retreads much of Destroyer's Rubies (2006), that doesn't mean Bejar is navigating already charted waters. Tracks like "The State" and "Plaza Trinidad" find Destroyer screaming with a visceral intensity, trying to harness the world's anxiety.





And Bejar, who spent much of last year in Spain, comes clean voicing his disdain for his residence in the New World on "Dark Leaves Form a Thread," where he apologetically announces, "Sorry, if you should find me thinking only of the things that I need / I've been living in America, in churches of greed / It's sick!"





This murky tension continues throughout. On the appropriately titled "Rivers," Bejar shrieks an accusation; "You've always had trouble flowing down rivers!"





-- DARCY CAPUTO





DOWNLOAD: "Dark Leaves Form a Thread"
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