Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet’s third record, is a spare and emotional stunner. By turns passionate and offhand, regretful and funny, it conveys intimacy even as it plays with guitar noise and studio folderol. Most of the songs consist of little else but Sweet’s voice and elegant touches of guitar, bass, and drums, yet loopy bits of technology intrude again and again, from the Beatlesque tape snippets in ”Divine Intervention” to the sound of a needle dropping onto an LP at the beginning of ”Day for Night.” ”I’ve Been Waiting” is fun-filled and rollicking, as Sweet finds love for the strangest reasons (”You can wear my clothes”); the tough ”Evangeline” (”Try her on, she fits like a glove”) has an appropriately rough guitar riff, courtesy of MVP guitarist Richard Lloyd. Sweet’s strikingly consistent songwriting, and the riot of influences he draws on — from Smokey Robinson soul to Fleetwood Mac pop, from Revolver-era feedback to very ’90s studio touches — make Girlfriend a masterpiece of spare, postmodern pop. A

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