Given its mysterious and mythologized history, "Smile," initially intended as the Beach Boys' follow-up to the celebrated "Pet Sounds," is one of the most intriguing releases of 2004, if not the last

Given its mysterious and mythologized history, "Smile," initially intended as the Beach Boys' follow-up to the celebrated "Pet Sounds," is one of the most intriguing releases of 2004, if not the last 40 years. Somewhat surprisingly, "Smile"—parts of which have been heard on various Beach Boys releases—shows Wilson in fine form. Despite his allegedly fragile state, Wilson and a large supporting cast deliver this American (pop) opera in a note-perfect and spirited fashion. From the quintessential Beach Boys' harmonies of "Our Prayer" and intricate orchestration of "Roll Plymouth Rock" to the "teenage symphony" of "Good Vibrations" and the surreal, circus-like lyrics of Van Dyke Parks, "Smile" stands up to its own myth. Rolling harpsichords meet multilayered vocal harmonies; abrupt stops and tempo changes lead to majestic orchestral swells; and there is fantastic, dreamlike imagery. This is pop music like nothing before it, or since.—CW