CD Review: Matthew Sweet’s Living Things

And I call myself a fan.

How in the world did it take me almost a year to realize that Matthew Sweet’s latest album, Living Things, was out?

Looking at his official website, there’s no mention of the CD. I don’t have any email from him and I’m on his mailing list (though that’s probably more a function of my switch away from Hotmail and towards Gmail). He doesn’t have an RSS feed or I’d have subscribed by now.

The new album isn’t on his own official discography. His management company is here in Metro Atlanta – maybe I should offer to help on the website. I’m available for a nominal fee and I love the artist; hook me up. ;-)

I found out about the disc while listening to Pandora [review here]. Turns out it was released simultaneously with a stateside pressing of the disc Kimi Ga Suki Raifu [review here] that was previously only available in Japan. I got my copy in a trade with my cousin Nathan, but it turns out I could have waited. Still, the import is that much cooler, being covered in Kanji and all.

Back to Living Things. It’s a very lush album, complete with lots of layered sounds, backtracking, looped vocals and cool instrumentation (theramin, steel drums, double bass). Matthew collaborated with longtime Beach Boys songwriter Van Dyke Parks, who plays piano on most of the album. The result is a concept album that recalls Pet Sounds or Brian Wilson’s Smile.

This is definitely an album influenced by California, in theme and in sound. It has some beautiful, plaintive slower songs – a tradition for Sweet – a few poppy, sunshine-y, happy tunes as well as some kooky, fun, experimental songs. Here’s a breakdown of my faves:

Pop:
The Big Cats Of Shambala
Push The Feelings
In My Time

Experimental:
Dandelion
Cats Vs. Dogs
I Saw Red

Slow:
You’re Not Sorry
Sunlight
Season Is Over

I’m biased, though. There are only 2 other songs on the album (In My Tree & Tomorrow), and I like those as well.

If you were a fan of Matthew’s In Reverse, you’ll like this CD. It’s not as strict a concept album, but you can tell the care with which the songs were created. Recorded at home in 2002, released in 2004, found in 2005.

This is a mature artist, confident in his talents and his instincts to make such a cool, atmospheric album.

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