For somebody who played a large role in reviving guitar-driven power pop in the '90s, Matthew Sweet spent a good chunk of the new millennium avoiding the six-string. Apart from 2003's Japanese love letter Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu, Sweet walked on the soft side in the years since 1997's Blue Sky on Mars, crafting psychedelic song cycles, Beach Boys tributes, and an album of sweet duets with Susanna Hoffs. Sunshine Lies returns the guitar to the center, pushing the playing of Greg Leisz, Ivan Julian, Richard Lloyd, and Sweet to the front and relying on arrangements that feel lean even when they're each graced with subtle flourishes of layered, overdubbed harmonies, Mellotrons, and backward tapes. Although the album's punch is a shade too pristine and precise, lacking the gangly ragged heart of Girlfriend, this is easily Sweet's liveliest record since the '90s, giving his sweet, sighing harmonies a candied warmth and his rockers some real bite. That slight snarl is evident throughout Sunshine Lies, even on the mellow moments, as Sweet's writing is tight and purposeful throughout, with individual songs standing as tight, bright little gems; yet they all fit together to form a larger picture as if they were part of a tapestry -- or more accurately a spider web, as Sweet peppers this album with all manners of nature, from the "Sunshine Lies" to the "Sunrise Eyes." Sweet also flies with "Byrdgirl" here, and that song title is a good indication of how deeply steeped in the '60s this album is, as it deftly balances chiming guitars indebted to both Roger McGuinn and George Harrison with harmonies from the Hollies and hooks from London and Los Angeles. There may be plenty of allusions to classic guitar pop, but Sunshine Lies plays as more reverential than referential, as Sweet never succumbs to pastiche but rather revives the feeling of the '60s, from sun-bleached folk-rock to swirling, sighing psychedelia. Again, this isn't all too far removed from other new millennium Sweet albums like Living Things, but the crisp, unadorned production -- courtesy of Matthew himself, who recorded and mixed this in his home studio -- keeps the focus on his brilliant pop hooks, which shine brighter and cleaner here than they have in quite some time.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine