She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas
'A Very She & He
Christmas' is the 3rd album from actress/singer Zooey
Deschanel and quiet indie music man M. Ward. Their previous efforts
have offered plenty of inspired moments so we were pretty excited
to see how the pair would perform juxtaposed between a stack of
pine needles and a quart of mulled wine. For the most part it is
just Dechanel's vocals softly drifting atop the sparse acoustic
arrangements provided by Matthew Ward (mostly shortened to M.
Ward). However hollow that may sound in practise it becomes, for
the most part, a thing of stripped back festive beauty.
We get a good
insight into what is going to emerge on this 12 track collection
courtesy of the opening song, the Sinatra cover 'The Christmas
Waltz'. A piano tinkles, a chord flickers and Deschanel purrs like
there is nothing better to do than play along to the softly
precipitating snow outside. On an album not short on quiet numbers
'Have Yourself A Merry Christmas' grabs the limelight for being
positively mouse-like (a near non-stirring mouse we should add).
Expel too much air at once and Deschanel's vocals might just bend
over like a feather that has been shoved in front of an industrial
fan. For all that it still sounds towering.
On an inspired cover
of the Beach Boys' 'Christmas Day', minimalism is thrown out the
window and even if the clean cut approach on most of the rest of
the album is a tonic it still sounds great to hear a full
technicolour production. She & Him's cover of Joey Spampinato's
'Christmas Wish' is a nother highlight as much for the obscurity
and lack of knowledge of the original as the twin presence of both
She and Him. While we were contentedly sleigh riding along with
only Zooey for vocal company it does make for a nice departure to
be joined by the soft embrace of M. Ward's words.
In a generally
beautiful judged album there are one or two missteps. 'I'll Be Home
For Christmas' suffers for being too upbeat and too incidental all
at once. It sounds like a demo or a guide to where the song was due
to go. In other words it sounds unfinished, which is a shame
because the singer sounds like she could be about to give a winning
performance. 'Sleigh Ride' is another that doesn't quite work,
again it sounds rushed before the ideas were fully explored. For
the first time on this album the female part of our duo also sounds
vocally out of her depth. Like a family member convinced of her own
talent but lacking that vital ingredient to make such a grandiose
Early impressions of
the much abused 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree' don't auger
well but some fine backing harmonies save the day. The percussion
on this one may be quite leaden but the fretwork more than makes up
for it. If campfires could be lit during December then this one
would surely be given plenty of outings.
'Silver Bells' and
'Baby, It's Cold Outside' play alongside each other and it proves
to be a minor masterstroke as the former opens the conversation via
a mandolin and Deschanel's stop-start delivery. 'Baby, It's Cold
Outside' is an unusually fast paced rendition. Initially the
hurried industry is a little overwhelming but a whistle here and a
loose chord there is enough to pacify the purists from breaking
down She & Him's frost laden door. Give it some time and it
will work its magic.
After the near
theatrics of 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' 'Blue Christmas' is
typically downcast, not altogether forgettable because it does have
a neat country swing but not altogether memorable either given the
artists that have covered it before. Which brings us neatly in the
opposite direction and in the gleeful arms of 'Little Saint Nick'
wherein She & Him conspire to construct a truly transcendant
moment. Of course there are other notable ditties but 'Little St.
Nick' is so perfectly executed you can almost picture Brian Wilson
Given her recent
divorce (to another indie diehard, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For
Cutie) there are bound to be references to the moniker Zooey
Deschanel chose to give her musical sortee but that would be unfair
because as far as this album goes there is only one man in her
life. And anyway were it not for the unhappiness back on the ranch
we would probably never have gotten such an alluring sad
performance as on 'The Christmas Song'. M. Ward adds a tropical
canvass and one of 2011's best Christmas album's closes on a high
through a genuine slice of interpreted low.
She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas Christmas Videos