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CD Reviews - Matthew Sweet
Matthew Sweet:Sunshine Lies
October 2008
By: Matt Boltz
album cover of Matthew Sweet's Sunshine Lies

On his tenth studio album (and first for Shout! Factory), Sunshine Lies, Matthew Sweet again displays his musical maturity, songwriting skills, and ability to masterfully shape songs with instrumentation, production, and emotion. Sweet, who also produced and mixed the album, blends old and new by using musical tones and vocal delivery that will sound familiar to his fans while showing Sweet's willingness to take the songs in a variety of directions.

The music on Sunshine Lies seems at times to be equal parts homage to 1960s-style melodic pop rock (such as The Byrds) and garage rock, with some psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Along with Around You Now and Daisychain, the fittingly-titled Byrdgirl is one of the tracks most reminiscent of catchy 1960s rock tunes. Flying is one of the stronger garage-y tunes, the title track and Time Machine (the opening track) are sprinkled with psychedelia, and Pleasure Is Mine has a 1960s-era blues-based rock. But while the album is very eclectic and full of various influences, there is never any doubt that it is a Matthew Sweet album from start to finish.

In addition to employing a variety of sounds on Sunshine Lies, Sweet also uses different tempos throughout the track listing, mixing upbeat songs with slower ones, employing a variety of instrumentation, and using a combination of layered and stripped down vocals. One of the standout tracks on the album is Feel Fear, a slower song with hypnotic piano and drum tracks and verses that can be applied to a variety of situations like war, the state of the nation, or illness. The chorus doesn't necessarily stand out at first, yet it's catchy and haunting, and can very well stick with the listener long after listening to the track: Feel fear, feel fear/ Do you believe deceive yourself/ Don't you realize you can't be saved/ Feel fear, feel fear/ Do you believe deceive yourself/ If you can't feel fear you've gone insane. The album is very strong lyrically, and Sweet does an excellent job of writing meaningful lyrics that give the album a serious vibe while remaining catchy and poppy enough for the listener to sing along with many of the tracks.

While Matthew Sweet may not be in the commercial music spotlight like he was in the first half of the 1990s, he continues to make very good music. Sunshine Lies features extremely personal songwriting, Sweet's willingness to combine different musical styles, and a sense that he invested a lot of emotion in the album. Sunshine Lies should make Sweet's longtime fans happy, and for new fans or those only familiar with his radio hits like Girlfriend and Sick of Myself, hopefully Sunshine Lies will inspire them to dig deeper into Sweet's extensive catalog.