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Shawn McNulty
Acrylic and Pumice on Canvas

Murmur is an original abstract painting on canvas by visual artist Shawn McNulty. This painting is is 1.5″ deep, gallery wrapped with painted edges, and ready to hang with wire on the back.

Fun Fact: A heart murmur is unusual sound heard in a heartbeat caused by turbulent blood around the heart. They are usually harmless (like mine when I was born) but can be abnormal and a sign of something more serious. A Soft Murmur is a cool app designed to help you relax with ambient background sounds like thunderstorms and waves. My painting Murmur was inspired by the first full length REM album. Check out the entire REM series. This painting was part of my Striations exhibition at Rosalux Gallery.

R.E.M.’s “Murmur”: A Captivating Debut Shrouded in Mystery

Released in 1983, R.E.M.’s debut album, “Murmur,” marked the beginning of a musical journey that would redefine the landscape of alternative rock. Hailing from Athens, Georgia, this quartet brought a distinctive sound characterized by jangly guitars, enigmatic lyrics, and Michael Stipe’s captivating vocal delivery. “Murmur” not only introduced R.E.M. to the world but also set the stage for their influential and storied career.

Jangle-Pop Pioneers:

“Murmur” emerged during a musical landscape dominated by synth-pop and new wave, yet R.E.M. chose a different path. The album showcased their affinity for jangle-pop, a genre characterized by melodic and chiming guitars. Peter Buck’s jangly guitar work became a defining feature of “Murmur” and laid the groundwork for R.E.M.’s signature sound.

Mysterious Lyrics:

One of the captivating elements of “Murmur” lies in Michael Stipe’s cryptic and often indecipherable lyrics. Stipe’s delivery, at times intentionally mumbled and obscured, adds an air of mystery to the album. Listeners found themselves drawn into a lyrical enigma, where interpretation became a personal and subjective experience. The album invites repeated listens, as each play unveils new layers of meaning within the poetic ambiguity of Stipe’s words.

Sonic Atmosphere:

From the ethereal opening of “Radio Free Europe,” “Murmur” establishes a sonic atmosphere that captures attention. The interplay between Stipe’s unique vocal stylings, Buck’s jangly guitar chords, Mike Mills’ melodic bass lines, and Bill Berry’s dynamic drumming creates a musical synergy that transcends traditional rock structures. The album’s production, helmed by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, contributes to its distinct sound, providing a rich and layered sonic tapestry.

Highlights and Diversity:

“Murmur” is a collection of songs that seamlessly flow from one to the next, creating a cohesive listening experience. Standout tracks like “Talk About the Passion” and “Perfect Circle” showcase R.E.M.’s ability to craft both introspective and anthemic moments. The diversity of the album is evident in tracks like “Shaking Through,” where the band explores a more subdued and contemplative side, highlighting their versatility.

Critical Acclaim:

Upon its release, “Murmur” received widespread critical acclaim, and its impact only grew over time. The album’s success marked the beginning of R.E.M.’s ascent in the music industry. It was named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone, and the band’s single “Radio Free Europe” gained significant airplay, introducing them to a broader audience.

Influence on Alternative Rock:

“Murmur” played a pivotal role in shaping the alternative rock genre. R.E.M.’s departure from mainstream musical trends set a precedent for the alternative movement that would blossom in the coming years. The album’s impact extended beyond its initial release, influencing subsequent generations of musicians and becoming a touchstone for bands exploring alternative and indie sounds.

Timeless Appeal:

The allure of “Murmur” lies in its timeless quality. The album’s enduring appeal can be attributed to its innovative sound, evocative lyrics, and the band’s commitment to authenticity. The jangle-pop aesthetics and Stipe’s enigmatic lyricism continue to resonate with listeners, making “Murmur” not just a debut album but a seminal work that stands the test of time.


“Murmur” is more than a debut album; it is a musical statement that introduced R.E.M. as a force to be reckoned with in the alternative rock landscape. Its mysterious lyrics, jangly guitars, and atmospheric sound laid the foundation for a band that would go on to become one of the most influential in the genre. “Murmur” remains a captivating and enigmatic journey, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in the sonic world of R.E.M. and experience the magic of a debut album that continues to echo through the corridors of musical history.


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