She & Him: Volume One

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of hype. This is because nine times out of ten, the hype itself usually is worth more than the product. The overwhelming amounts of longing often lead to disappointment from semi-quality creations that can never fully live up to the expectations set for them. That said, I must confess that the mass media attention given to Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s collective project, She & Him, had me a little gun shy.

The bands’ reluctance to play more than a handful of live shows furthered my anxiety of the project, as I stand by my belief that a live show, or the lack there of can make or break a band. So, when Merge Records sent me the album promo, I put off listening to it until the very last minute.

Turns out that I shouldn’t have, as the albums pros vastly outnumber it’s cons. Below is a track by track review of She and Him’s debut album, Volume One.

The albums opening track, “Sentimental Heart” sets the record straight from second one; Zooey Deschanel can fucking sing. He vocals, which stand alone over simple piano and soothing strings, seem to boom over everything else in the mix. This allows the lyrical content of the song to ring through over all aspects without distractions, which continues to be consistent throughout the entirety of the album.

It’s noticed again on the album’s first single and second tune, “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here”, a song in which Deschanel addresses the object of her desire, and her feeling of being slighted and overlooked by said individual. The song’s message hides the classic guitar riffs and piano structure which by itself is worth looking into. The song’s guitar solo, however, slices through during the first vocal break and gives us our first look at M. Ward being, well… M. Ward. He lets loose, shoving his talents and skills into the limelight, and highlighting why this song remains one of the catchiest on the album.

“This Is Not A Test,” Volume One‘s third track, could easily be confused with many of the tracks on the Jenny Lewis solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. The structures of the song line up flawlessly, all the way down to The Watson Twins‘ style backing vocals. In a true testament to her charming personality, and her uncanny ability not to take herself or her art too seriously, Deschanel busts out into a pretty mean mock-trumpet solo, which she sings. Impressively enough, this aspect comes off both fitting and humorous at the same time.

Changing the course of things drastically, “Change Is Hard” takes a more country turn than the previous numbers. If nothing else, this highlights Deschanel’s ability to belt her vocals. The song’s use of slide guitars is very effective without becoming drab or distracting, while the chimes seem to pinpoint exactly what Zooey wants you to notice. Furthermore, the song features our first look at the blended vocals of Deschanel and Ward. The combination of the two works as well as any duo I’ve ever experienced.

Not to be typecast into any specific sound, the group seems to sample three unique sounds on the albums next three tracks. “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today” has a sort of show tune feel to it, in the same vain of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” or “Moon River.” It’s followed by “Take It Back,” a Jazz number with the voice of Ella and the strength of Billie. Zooey states, “I don’t want to wonder whither you love me,” exposing her vulnerability while highlighting her ability to call someone out for wasting her time. This trio is followed up by a 1950’s friendly ditty, that would fit flawless in the lineup of any high school pep band. Sadly, I think “I Was Made For You” might honestly work better in that aspect, as it is by far my least favorite track on the album.

The first of two covers, “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” pop up on the album in the eighth spot. The group take liberty to giving the song their own signature, adding a nice jazz crooner feel to it. Zooey’s vocals are echoed by Wards, giving a haunting feel to the generally beautiful song written by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

The album’s next two songs, “Black Hole” and “Got Me,” take their cues from country legends Rosemary Clooney and June Carter, respectively. Zooey has somehow summoned a southern drawl, as she expresses her loneliness, “I’m alone on a bicycle for two.” This statement, while sad, also remains somewhat adorable.

Track eleven doubles as a duet between Ward and Deschanel, as well as a cover of The Beatles, “I Should Have Known Better.” Zooey’s laughter mid-song is a wonderful testament to the Fab Four, who never took their recordings too seriously. The playful manner allows the song a real, non-studio feel, as though Zooey and M. Ward can come to your party, grabbed your guitar, and started playing just to pass the time. To me, this stands out as the most candid moment of the album.

The album ends with “Sweet Darlin’,” a very catch number complete with hand claps and multiple types of percussion. While the backing vocals seem a touch distracting on this song, the outstanding string compositions make up for it twofold. The song represents a very strong ending to an overall well written album. All and all, my only complaints come within the aspects of the album being more she, than she and him. I would have liked to see M. Ward highlighted a little more often, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take a excellent indie album in any fashion over an awful movie turn singer track listing anyway.

You can grab She & Him’s debut album, Volume One in stores and on iTunes now. It’s being released on the iconic Merge Records.

She & Him’s Myspace
Merge Records


One Response

  1. […] by Smokey Robinson, whose “You Really Gotta Hold On Me” appears on She and Him’s Volume One and another, “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” by legendary folk folk singer […]

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