R.E.M.’s 15th studio release maintains the momentum of 2008’s Accelerate and makes the case for the band’s continuing relevance. By doubling-down on lushly textured ballads on Accelerate, R.E.M. reversed a dozen-year fallow period of art-pop experimentation that sapped their signature vitality. Building upon Accelerate’s stripped-down rock sound, Collapse Into Now boasts some of their catchiest rockers of the post-Bill Berry era (coinciding with their descent into moody, overproduced navel-gazing). The hard-rushing garage-pop number “That Someone Is You” comes on like “Superman,” as Stipe pleads for someone to “pull me out of cartoon quicksand.” He hides his “Quasimodo heart” in the spiky, churning “All the Best,” and the band fashions a classic Reckoning-era jangle-pop rave-up in “Mine Smell Like Honey.” Indeed, at times the album feels like a retrospective trotting out all the guises of yesteryear. While half of the dozen tracks are rockers, the balance run the spectrum — the sweet, mandolin-driven folk of “Oh My Heart,” a spiritual kin to “Losing My Religion,” the tinkling, lullaby-ish “Every Day Is Yours To Win,” and the pretty, atmospheric nearly six-minute closer, “Blue.” By dialing back the dour experimentation and returning to their roots-rock strengths, R.E.M. produce their best album since the mid ’90s.