Rainy Day Albums: Automatic for the People


I’m sitting here with the hipster cats listening to the rain. The house has been quiet for the past couple of days and the current thunderstorm is really doing its best to set the mood for the evening. So I’m doing what I would normally do: throw on a record and enjoy the blending of rain and song.

Today’s record is R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any R.E.M., mostly because I tend to be obsessive in phases. The band had their time in my playlist during April but since it’s coming around to September, they’ve managed to weasel their way back into my rotation.

Why Automatic? I think a lot of it has to do with the music videos of that era. I was a little too young to have watched “Drive” and “Everybody Hurts” as they premiered. However, I’ve MORE than made up for that by wearing out a few “Best of” dvds. It’s striking that the majority of the videos from this time heavily rely on black/white color schemes. Everything in shades of grey.

Though I’ve long since remixed the album to discard “Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight” from my moody melancholic playlist, I’m letting it play for now. You know how they say that you can’t experience pure joy until you’ve known what it is to experience sadness? I think it works the other way around too. Automatic is SO heavy, “Sidewinder” kind of lightens the mood long enough to make you forget that “Everybody Hurts” comes next, followed by some of the most heart-wrenching songs known to man.

Something about that little D arpeggio scale just rips you to pieces. Simple little song to play. Simple little tune. Just absolutely amazing, even some 20 years later (as of October 7th, I believe). So I’m now onto “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1”. Things have gotten a lot more mellow…

I’m a big believer in experiencing an album, not just listening to a song or two. Albums like Automatic were made to be tasted, smelled, felt in every fiber of your body as you lay on your bed with the lights dimmed and the rain smacking the window. I think that’s why it has very few plays on my iTunes count. You want to create a mood, a feeling. So put on a record, right? Time to get lost in some music before your roommate comes home, before the kids need dinner, before the neighbors start yelling…

When you really get into an album, everything else will drift away. It’s a meditation. You breathe in time with the songs, apply the lyrics to where you are in life right now, or just start to fall asleep. So much for just a rainy day.

I’m at the end of the record now. Possibly the greatest ending trio of songs you’ll find around: “Man on the Moon,” “Nightswimming,” and “Find the River.” If you, like myself, are waxing nostalgic right about now, it makes sense. We’re at the end of another summer. Winter will come soon. We’re forced to remember that we’re another year older, memories another year further away. But it’s a good thing, you know?

If you believe there’s nothing up my sleeve….
September’s coming soon, I’m pining for the moon…
The river empties to the tide, all of this is coming your way…

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