The debut collaboration between one-man-band M. Ward and actress-turned-crooner Zooey Deschanel has all the sentimental charm of a 1960s throwback, with a few of the kinks that come along with firsts.
Ever since Deschanel’s character belted out a bathtub rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in 2003’s “Elf,” there’s been no question that the girl’s got some pipes.
And She & Him is an extension of those classic vocal chords, best tuned to a familiar song from yesteryear.
Deschanel has the creamy vocal quality of an old-time crooner, at times hidden away by a playful soprano. “I Was Made For You” sounds like it was pulled right out of the surf’s-up 60s. The nasal vocals fit the feel of the tune, but don’t quite showcase Deschanel at her best.
By “Take it Back,” Deschanel is in her full glory, shining again on the “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
But at times Deschanel sounds like she’s stumbling in the studio. The opening for “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today” is what might imagine to be reminiscent of those first demos she recorded in private, at her computer desk.
Rabid Beatles fans should not compare the duo’s take on “I Should Have Known Better” to the more urgent original. It’s audible that the pair is having a good time playing around with their laid-back, Hawaiian-themed cover, that sounds, but I just couldn’t relax long enough to savor the slowed-down version.
The production on the album’s debut track, “Sentimental Heart” is a little lackluster, but by no means sets the tone for the rest of the tracks.
The stripped-down backing doesn’t do the duo credit, but later tracks help exemplify Ward’s deft hand with layering, and introducing simple sounds for an archetypal feel.
Genre: Indie rock/Pop
Label: Merge Records
Release date: March 18, 2008