Power-pop maestro Matthew Sweet is returning to North American audiences after a five-year hiatus between solo releases with two new albums.
Power-pop maestro Matthew Sweet is returning to North American audiences after a five-year hiatus between solo releases with two new albums. "Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu," a 12-track album released last year in Japan, is due Sept. 7 on Superdeformed/RCAM Records. A separate album, "Living Things" will arrive from the label Oct. 19.
Both albums -- the first all-new U.S. releases under Sweet's name since 1999's "In Reverse" (Volcano) -- were recorded in short order at the artist's house in 2002. But "Kimi Ga Suki" was earmarked for Japanese-only release, and the release of "Living Things" was delayed as well, due to Sweet's promotional efforts with the Thorns, the group he formed with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins.
While the pair of albums will be released right after one another in the United States, sonically they represent two very distinct aspects of Sweet's work. "Kimi Ga Suki" has a raw, electric sound based around the raucous drumming of collaborator Ric Menck, Sweet's bass and guitar work by Greg Leisz and Television alum Richard Lloyd. The songs were written in about a week and recorded without demos, a stripped-down method of album-making that the artist found exciting.
"That process turned out to be really satisfying and fun for me," Sweet tells Billboard.com. "As hard as it was to accept it the album was done [without extensive studio tinkering], at least I made a record that I can say is a record, out of my house."
"Living Things" followed a similarly organic path to creation, its songs having been written while Sweet was staying with Droge and Mullins at a ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., working on Thorns material. Again, Sweet and Menck recorded the basic tracks at the former's home. But then Sweet and Leisz added more layers of extensive instrumentation -- all acoustic -- with the help of a pop iconoclast Van Dyke Parks.
A meeting at Brian Wilson's surprise 60th birthday led to the collaboration with former Beach Boys consort and Sweet's idol Parks, who ended up adding accordion, organ and piano to the album's 11 lush tracks. Sweet says building that album was a very organic process, and a good deal of the final material on "Living Things" is culled from improvisational first takes.
"My interest at this point is how to break the mold," he says. "I wanna do unbridled, cool, weird things when I feel like it. That's the exciting thing to me about these records -- they represent that I can do whatever."
Sweet hopes his freedom from having a major-label deal, coupled with his newfound ability to make full-sounding records at home, will lead to a new phase in his career.
"I'd like to get to a point where I could be more like I was a painter or a potter," he says, "where I just make my thing and I put it out, and it doesn't have to be everyone in the world that wants it, you know? If enough people want it that I can survive and actually make money from it, I'd be happy."
The artist has three Japanese tour dates on his docket -- Aug. 21 and 23 in Tokyo and Aug. 24 in Osaka -- and he plans to tour North America in support of the two new releases starting in October.