I feel like I’m late to the party with this one, but: She & Him: Volume One is just a great, fun record. (Evidence that I’m late to the party: I’m still calling them “records.”)
Like just about everybody else who saw the movie, I’ve had a crush on Zooey Deschanel since she sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Will Ferrell in Elf. No surprise there; that’s exactly what the scene was designed to do. I read an interview with Jon Favreau (or maybe it was the commentary for the movie?) where he said the scene was inserted after hearing Deschanel sing at a party and being blown away by how well she sings.
So now there’s a new record out and you’d expect it to be more of the same, another album from an actress trying to make a music career on the side. But you can already tell this is different, since they promote themselves and the record just as another duo; it’s only when reviewers and musically clueless people like myself start writing about them that anyone draws attention to the fact she’s a movie star.
Even better, you don’t get the sense of anyone sticking to a comfort zone, or trying to make an important artistic statement. It really just feels like a couple of people who love the music they grew up hearing. I’d been expecting more of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” where Deschanel sounds like she’s channelling a late 50s/early 60s movie musical actress. There’s a little bit of that on the track “Take It Back,” but the rest of the record is all over the place. A lot of their influences are listed on their band site; I’m not knowledgeable about most of that music, but even I can totally hear The Ronettes and Linda Ronstadt. And there are several that sound to me like Cass Elliott crossed with Karen Carpenter. But you don’t get the sense that it’s just impersonation or self-conscious parody, but someone who sincerely loves this music and wants to make more of it.
Best tracks are: “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”, “Sweet Darlin'”, “Black Hole,” and “This is Not a Test.” But the whole thing just makes you feel like summer’s about to start and it’s time to get the car and just drive somewhere for no reason.
Also: I’ve listened to the new B-52’s record, Funplex, and it’s fairly forgettable, but worth it just for the song “Juliet of the Spirits.” Considering how much time I spent driving around Athens in a POS VW Bug listening to “Whammy!” over and over again in college, all this music is making me feel plenty nostalgic.
Also: If you think I just listen to girly music, shut up, who asked you? I listen to plenty of guy music, too. I can’t think of what it is now, since my “most recently played” list is all Amy Winehouse, Neko Case, Allison Krauss, Norah Jones, and now She & Him, but I know it’s in there.