The album is a 40-song career-spanning retrospective that collects, for the first time ever, songs from R.E.M.'s entire back catalog, including the pioneering American band's years on both the IRS label (1982 to 1987) and Warner Bros. Records (1988 to 2011). In addition to liner notes written by band members Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe, the album also features three new songs that R.E.M. finished after they completed their last album, Collapse Into Now: "A Month of Saturdays," "We All Go Back To Where We Belong," and "Hallelujah," which were recorded over the summer in Athens with Accelerate and Collapse Into Now producer, the estimable Jacknife Lee.
R.E.M. formed in 1980 when singer Michael Stipe met guitarist Peter Buck in an Athens, GA, record store where Buck worked. After recruiting bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, R.E.M. released its first single, "Radio Free Europe," in 1981, followed by 1982's Chronic Town EP, capturing the imagination of a new generation of music lovers and bringing "guitar pop back into the underground lexicon," as All-Music put it. Widely credited with inventing the college-rock genre, R.E.M. became the most influential American alternative rock band in history -- inspiring such artists as Sonic Youth, Pavement, Nirvana, and Radiohead -- for achieving multi-platinum mainstream success while maintaining their distinct identity.