She & Him – Volume One

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel met in 2005 on the set of an independent film for which they performed a duet. They bonded and she sent him some of her demos and they decided to work together, beginning recording on this debut release barely a year after they first met.

What I Think of This Album

It is easy to come into this predisposed against it as a crass vanity project. But this isn’t Don Johnson’s Heartbeat album on Epic. Zooey Deschanel’s name and face are absent from the art, and it’s on Merge. And, for what it’s worth, she has a really nice voice, can write a good song, and doesn’t surround herself with a bunch of high-priced hired guns in the studio.

Comprising ten originals and three covers, the album – whose title communicates confidence, if nothing else – is overwhelmingly charming and pleasant without being groundbreaking. Deschanel, true to her Hollywood roots, is capable of conveying various emotions well, usually accompanied by sunny melodies supported by neo-Spector arrangements. M. Ward, for his part, is unobtrusive and appears more than willing to cede the spotlight. Songs like the weepy “Sentimental Heart” and the rollicking and flirty “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?,” as well as girl-group number “I Was Made for You” are emblematic of the overall strength of the album.

The covers are where I have the most trouble. It is in these moments that the whole project seems irretrievably precious. The Smokey Robinson and Beatles covers are at best unnecessary and at worst, border on embarrassing. But the cover of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is even more problematic. I’m not sure who was involved in the decision-making on this, but it seems fairly distasteful to have a white bread movie star singing an African-American spiritual (though this misdeed has been committed many times over, including by Bing Crosby and Eric Clapton). It’s an unfortunate way to end an otherwise very enjoyable affair.

Guests include Rachel Blumberg of the Decemberists and Mike Coykendall (Devotchka).

The Best Thing About This Album

Deschanel can sing. No doubt about it.

Release Date

March, 2008

The Cover Art

I love the font and the watercolor. The featureless face is creepy as fuck.

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