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Matthew Sweet: Five Essential Beach Boys Songs

Matthew Sweet (photo by Evan Carter, PR)

Matthew Sweet (photo by Evan Carter, PR)


[May 2018 update: Matthew Sweet's 13th album, Tomorrow's Daughter, was released on May 18 via the Sweet Honeycomb Hideout label, distributed by MRI/Sony. Sweet describes the new songs as a homecoming, an ongoing reflection on his move back to his native Nebraska five years ago and a very fecund period for him creatively. He embarks on a North American tour on June 13 in Alexandria, VA and makes his way to the New York area on June 16, playing Bay Shore's YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, and June 20, at Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge.]

Follow Matthew Sweet's winding 12-album road from 1991's Girlfriend to 2017's Tomorrow Forever, and it's evident that this man knows his way around the perfect power pop song. Sweet's songs, like the long-ago "I've Been Waiting" or this year's "Trick," are primers of bittersweet bliss, resonating with romantic yearning, a wistful wryness, robust hooks and shimmering guitar chords. 

While Sweet's songwriting might reflect predecessors like Big Star, R.E.M., and the rich Athens, Georgia scene that buoyed him early in his career, his most resounding influence over the years has been Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Back in 2001, Sweet memorably covered "Sail On, Sailor" with Darius Rucker for a New York concert and TV show, "A Tribute to Brian Wilson." Back then, he also affectionately discussed the artistic and spiritual impact of Wilson, his "musical idol."  Sweet also covered the languid "The Warmth of the Sun" with Susanna Hoffs for their 2006 release, Under the Covers, Vol. 1.

Earlier this summer, FUV asked Sweet if he'd tackle a list of his "Five Essentials Beach Boys Songs" for FUV Essentials — and as a dedicated Beach Boys acolyte, he promptly sent on his choices a few hours later.

Matthew Sweet: Five Essential Beach Boys Songs:

"Let Him Run Wild," Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (1965)
I've always liked the feel and sentiment of this song. It predates the truly classic Pet Sounds, but shows Brian Wilson reaching for the stars in chords and melody. The Wrecking Crew and particularly drummer Hal Blaine knock it out of the park when the chorus hits.

"The Warmth of the Sun," Shut Down Volume Two (1964)
Incredibly beautiful and inventive to say the least. I think maybe I've heard before that the song had something to do with Brian's reaction to the Kennedy assassination, but I'm not sure if there's really any truth to it.

"Caroline No," Pet Sounds (1966)
So wistful and one of the best songs on Pet Sounds, the album that still stands as Brian's true masterpiece. Lamenting the effects of change in life, it holds great insight.

"'Til I Die," Surf's Up (1971)
Always a real favorite of mine. Here Brian imagines himself swept up by the forces of nature like a "leaf on a windy day," showing an innate insight into the true nature of life, something that carries us along more than we actually shape it.

"Surf's Up," Surf's Up (1971)
Van Dyke Parks' modern surrealistic lyrics combine with more melodically ingenious work from Brian to create a truly memorable classic. This one was originally meant for the abandoned Smile album, eventually landing on the Surf's Up LP, which was also home to the aforementioned "'Til I Die." The outro is stunning with its classic refrain "the child is father to the man."

- Matthew Sweet
September 2017

Read all of FUV's Five Essential Songs and Albums here.