Friday, December 20, 2013

A Very She & Him Christmas - She & Him

A Very She & Him Christmas
She & Him
Merge Records MRG 424

This white vinyl record has been spending a lot of time on my turntable this holiday season.  When I first read that Zooey Deschanel was making records with M. Ward I didn't expect much even though I like M. Ward's solo work.  I assumed it was some movie star vanity project until I heard Deschanel's guest spot at the Living Sisters' Patsy Cline tribute concert at Disney Hall back in 2011.  I was amazed by her powerful vocal, she sounded like a young Linda Ronstadt.  I finally caught She & Him live over the summer when they played the Hollywood Bowl and I was equally impressed.  They've completely won me over.  This album features a nice mix of music.  It has several traditional pop standards like "The Christmas Waltz," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," "Sleigh Ride,"  "Silver Bells" and "The Christmas Song"  It also has more contemporary rock Christmas tunes including NRBQ's "Christmas Wish" (which features Ward on lead vocal,) Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," Elvis' "Blue Christmas" and a pair of tunes from the Beach Boys "Christmas Day" and "Little Saint Nick."  My favorite song on the record is the duet performance of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" which I know best in Dean Martin's lascivious version.  Deschanel sings the seductive part traditionally assigned to male performers of the song to winning effect.  It is a charming performance.  The arrangements on the album are tasteful and spare, mostly Ward laying down reverb-heavy guitar licks augmented occasionally by some simple piano runs from Deschanel (as well as a ukelele on "Silver Bells" and "Little Saint Nick") and, on the uptempo numbers, drumming from Jim Keltner.   This is the sort of Christmas record that appeals to me the most, traditional without being sappy as well as being cool while still being sincere.  Deschanel has a warm, engaging voice and I find that listening to this record inevitably lifts my spirits.  It brings back some of the magic of Christmas music that I felt listening to my parents' Christmas records as a child.  I know I will be listening to it for many Christmases to come.  Recommended to sentimental hipsters.

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