Monday, January 12, 2009

She & Him: Sweet and Sticky

For a brief moment, I thought I'd try to catch up on albums I missed in 2008. Then I ran into Music Blog Zeitgeist (warning: you'll never return) and realized the folly of my endeavor. Still, I shall persist.

First up is She & Him: Volume One which I had read about in bits and pieces about through the second half of last year, but it just wasn’t jumping up in the Room queue. However, it started showing up in all kinds of year end lists including ended up at the top of the heap for Paste and so in the last round of consumption, Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward ended up in the players (focus on the “s”—it is important).

Why the hesitancy in the first place? Well, there is that whole thing that most artists that I tend to like, don’t come fresh off of a Jim Carrey film (not that I am judging Jim Carrey). Okay, that isn’t totally fair—Deschanel has made a lot of other films and has been singing in them and in other venues/arrangements for longer than one might think. And M. Ward has his own rising career that is worth noting as well. And yet, it seemed so awfully poppy sounding, but off I went.

My first reaction was to wonder what all the glowing reviews were about. It was cute and fun--a throwback novelty. It gave me the feeling that I could throw this in the player with some other hip lounge tunes and have friends over for a retro-1960s party with Pink Ladies and Grasshoppers. It probably didn’t help that I was driving home on a drizzling, cold Saturday evening in downtown Washington, D.C. with all the lights glimmering off the wet pavement and cars as I watched couples wrapped in long coats and scarves scamper from taxis into restaurants and bars like something out of a Rat Pack movie. But then I am home and She & Him are on while we are making dinner and later it is on the stereo, and back in the car the next day, and why can’t I stop listening to this album?

Well, I am not sure, but I couldn’t can’t. The songs are nothing sophisticated, although the more I listen the more I appreciate the arrangements which have some really nice subtle touches--a little piano fill here, subtle strings there, nice synchopation over there, etc. Deschanel doesn’t have what you would describe as amazing range, but somehow the sincerity of her singing overcomes the sweetness of the songs. There is a mix of standard love songs, lazy country-swing tunes and upbeat pop tunes with girl-group harmonies and, of course, a certain indie feel. Rolling Stone is right that the original stuff (all the songs but two are composed by Zooey) is better than the covers, but ultimately the whole thing holds together in one tasty melodic treat.

Still not sure it would make my top ten list (if I had one), but I do think I get what others saw in this album, or perhaps it got me. Here are three to take you back to your AM radio listening days.

Buy Album

This Is Not a Test
Take It Back
I Was Made for You


Nelson said...

That's how this album gets you. That's how it got me.

1st listen: "That's kinda nice."
5th listen: "Damn, that's catchy."
10th listen: "Can't... get it out... of my head."

It's a grower.

CPS said...

It was your top ten list that finally pushed me on this one (and a couple of others)--so thanks Nelson!

Lisa B. said...

There's something about the songs and also I think the quality of Deschanel's voice that just makes you want to keep listening.

Thanks for the link! and also the warning about Zeitgeist . . .

Lisa B. said...

also, possibly a post about hip lounge tunes . . . ? I could use some advice.

CPS said...

Not sure I have any real insights on lounge music--I have a bunch of compilation albums of predictable stuff, but I will start thinking on it--Stan Kenton is already playing in the background as I type.