Turning away from the sweet pop of Out of Time, R.E.M. created a haunting, melancholy masterpiece with Automatic for the People. At its core, the album is a collection of folk songs about aging, death, and loss, but the music has a grand, epic sweep provided by layers of lush strings, interweaving acoustic instruments, and shimmering keyboards. Automatic for the People captures the group at a crossroads, as they moved from cult heroes to elder statesmen, and the album is a graceful transition into their new status. It is a reflective album, with frank discussions on mortality, but it is not a despairing record -- Nightswimming, Everybody Hurts, & Sweetness Follows have a comforting melancholy, while Find the River provides a positive sense of closure. R.E.M. has never been as emotionally direct as they are on Automatic for the People, nor have they ever created music quite as rich & timeless, & while the record isn't an easy listen, it's the most rewarding record in their oeuvre.