It's been more than 25 years since Matthew Sweet released the album people still think of when his name is mentioned: Girlfriend. That 1991 postdivorce power-pop masterpiece still sounds deliciously fresh today, and Sweet himself can't help but compare his new record, Tomorrow Forever — his first solo recording in six years — to that earlier effort.
"Somehow, this one harkens back to the time, and sound, of Girlfriend," the 52-year-old musician said by phone. "It has that same kind of vitality; that same kind of intimacy."
While Girlfriend was an ultimately hopeful song-cycle about youthful love and loss, Sweet, who headlines Saturday's Haverford Music Festival, says the Kickstarter-funded Tomorrow Forever is a "much moodier rumination," touching on issues related to growing older, the passage of time, and futile attempts to outrun it.
"They're both filled with songs about feelings, but this one is not altogether autobiographical," Sweet said, while acknowledging that the album was thematically impacted by his move back to Nebraska (where he grew up) and the recent loss of his mother. Tomorrow Forever features 17 tracks culled from more than 35 recorded in his home studio; another dozen became the bonus demo disc Tomorrow's Daughter that was provided to Kickstarter donors (and which, Sweet says, will probably be made available to the general public in time).
"The songs never felt esoteric to me at all; there's a solidness that I think underpins the whole record," Sweet said. "I wanted very much to make a heartfelt record. Hopefully I succeeded there."
Sweet will perform at 7:30 p.m. at the Oakmont Field Stage with his touring band (guitarist Jason Victor, drummer Ric Menck, and bassist Paul Chastain). He's been on the road more than usual to plug the new album but said Saturday's show will be a mix of old and new; perhaps even some of the '60s and '70s pop covers he and Susanna Hoffs charmed fans with on their three Under the Covers CDs.
And of course in the mix will be fan-favorite tracks from Girlfriend, like the title track and "Divine Intervention."
"There is such affection for that record and we feel it when we play those songs live," Sweet said. "I'm touched that those songs still mean something to so many people."
The Haverford Music Festival is a fund-raiser for the Township's Civic Council and provides funding for various community projects aimed at improving area residents' quality of life. To date, more than $73,000 has been raised through the event, which this year will feature more than 30 acts performing on four stages. In addition to the live performances, there will be food booths, two beer gardens, and some family-themed activities.
Headlining the Darby Road Stage at 6 p.m. will be New Jersey-based Beatles-inspired band, The Weeklings, led by former Styx member Glen Burtnik (who also starred in Beatlemania as Paul McCartney, opposite Marshall Crenshaw as John Lennon). Other festival performers include 2015 The Voice soul-pop vocalist Nadjah Nicole (Darby Road Stage, 5:05 p.m.) and Boston-based blues-rock singer-guitarist Danielle Miraglia (Oakmont Field Stage, 6:05 p.m.).
"In my experience, playing festivals is really fun," Sweet said. "Even people who don't know you get into the music."