Matthew Sweet, Living Things

Rob O'Connor

By Rob O'Connor

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Matthew Sweet approaches power-pop like an archaeologist on a dig, determined to uncover something important and lost from decades past. He sure knows his old records, yet Sweet always sorts out his inner muse from the influences. Living Things, written while Sweet was recording the Thorns album with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, is a gentler Sweet. In the past he empowered tunes with layers of scraping electric guitars; Living Things opts for a milder approach. Sweet recorded the bare tracks with drummer Ric Menck at home and then had ace musician Greg Leisz overdub mandolin, mandola and slide guitar for Sweet's most adventurous album to date. The teaming with legendary producer-arranger Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys, Randy Newman) adds a whimsical, spontaneous element to the subdued textures and longing sentiment. "You're Not Sorry" is Sweet at his most achingly direct, then "Dandelion" follows with splashes of ornate psychedelia, Parks derailing the melody with anarchic piano, Sweet following with wayward Theremin.