Early on, Matthew Sweet had the good fortune to team up with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, as well as with his sister Lynda's band, Oh-OK. But being a sideman wasn't really Sweet's destiny. 1991's Girlfriend, released at the height of the alt-rock era, made a splash with its superb songwriting, which embraced power pop rather than the hard rock that was in favor at the time. Since then, Sweet has escaped being seen as a retro artist through the sheer quality of his songs and because of his knack for throwing in experimental flourishes across his recorded career. An avid collector of odd and rare instruments, Sweet always seems to expand his sound and push his own boundaries. His surname may be a quirk of fate, but it suits his music fine.