Thursday, January 18, 2018

Certain Songs #1103: Matthew Sweet – “Winona” | Medialoper

Album: Girlfriend
Year: 1991

Robert Quine – Electric Lead Guitar
Greg Leisz – Pedal Steel Guitar
Fred Maher – Drums

The first of a small cohort of atmospheric songs I’m writing about called “Winona” — weird how that name was on the minds of Gen-X songwriters in the early 1990s — Matthew Sweet’s song is one of the few songs on Girlfriend bereft of any guitar pyrotechnics, but probably the one the most truly features the sadness that underlies the rest of the record.

Almost country-ish in its execution — though Sweet’s vocals are nowhere near that — “Winona” is dominated by Greg Leisz’s pedal steel guitar and an droning two-note acoustic guitar riff from Sweet, which fits perfectly with lyrics like:

I tried to call you
But the line was busy
Were you talking to a friend?
When I tried again much later
I didn’t want to let it ring again

Most of the songs on Girlfriend, go all out with the vocal overdubs, especially on the big choruses, which are often an overdubbed Matthew Sweet being countered or responded to by even more Matthew Sweets, but not so “Winona.” For most of the song, it’s just Sweet alone, with only a harmony overdub on the chorus.

Could you be my
Little movie star?
Could you be my long lost girl?
It’s true that
I don’t really know you
But I’m alone in the world

While the bulk of the song is dominated by the pedal steel guitar, Quine does show up at the very end as support as Sweet laments “I feel alone” a couple of times as the song fades into the sad night.


“Winona” performed live in 2011

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