Given that this wonderful blog called Owl Pellets is about all things cultural and entertaining, including music and film, I thought it wildly appropriate to SHOUT FROM MY FINGERTIPS a small word about new band, She & Him. (And I’m sure now you realize the title of this thread is not, as you initially thought, a horrible display of grammar.) You may recognize the two good-lookin’s in the photo above as M.Ward and Zooey Deschanel.
Matt Ward – M.Ward – is a singer/songwriter based out of Portland, Oregon and has released six records, his most recent, Post-War. He has collaborated with the likes of Neko Case, Conor Oberst, Jim James, Nels Cline, and Jenny Lewis.
Zooey Deschanel is an actress (and now songstress) based out of Los Angeles, California. Her resume spans over thirty-six television and film appearances, notably Almost Famous, Elf, Winter Passing, The Good Girl, Eulogy, Failure to Launch, Bridge to Terabithia, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, “Weeds”, “Frasier”, “Veronica’s Closet”, and the list, wonderfully, goes on.
I’m usually a bit weary of actors and actresses -turned musicians, but Deschanel has definitely proven she has the passion and style, really, for such an undertaking.
The duo’s MySpace page had this to say about their getting-together-ed-ness:
She & Him made their debut record as a love letter to the musicians who inspired it. Volume One (Merge Records) introduces a boy and girl choir hell-bent on making music the old-fashioned way: by hand – and with as few machines as humanly possible.
The She & Him story begins when in 2006 , renowned one man band M. Ward, recorded a duet with a girl named Zooey Deschanel. A delightful recording session, the experience lead to a dialogue between the two about collaborating further. This, in turn, led to Deschanel admitting to secretly making dozens and dozens of home demos and hoarding them like acorns for the winter. Sick and tired of being stingy and secretive about music, Deschanel realized that if songs were acorns then this was indeed her wintertime: she sent the recordings to Ward and these demos became the basis for their first record, entitled Volume One.
Ward’s unique arrangements and virtuostic guitar playing paired with Deschanel’s affinity for vocal harmony give Volume One its characteristic sound . Ward and Deschanel share a mutual affection for the songs they grew up hearing on Los Angeles radio stations – and keep in their hearts the records that most DJ’s aren’t playing anymore: Les Paul and Mary Ford, The Ronettes, Nina Simone, Chet Atkins, Linda Ronstadt, the Carter Family and about a hundred others. Aiming to achieve the warmth and charm of pop and country records from the early and mid part of the twentieth century, Ward, who also produced the record, and Deschanel, who wrote most of the music, called upon the help of a number of extraordinary musicians including: Rachel Blumberg, Adam Selzer, Mike Coykendall, Tom Hagerman, Peter Broderick, Mike Mogis, and Paul Brainerd. Without whom this record would just be two people with no drums, bass, strings or pedal steel.
Though I basically gave you all/most of what they present on the site, I’d recommend hitting it up anyway, if only to hear their full sample of “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” Deschanel has a very cabaret goes modern sound, and Ward’s style is very apparent, though I kind of wish his vocals were more present.
I took a peek at Merge Records’ site, too, and their album is available for both purchase and sample. Her country style is dominating, but not too much so. I think Ward can put Deschanel up there with Neko Case in collaborations, as well, for her vocals are so distinctly her own, yet draw from strong influences, like Linda Ronstadt. Merge agrees with me there, too:
Embracing the warm sound of early analog recordings, Volume One is more than just a showcase for Zooey’s rich and endearing voice; it’s a distinctive and endlessly charming album. The songs themselves give a respectful nod to the likes of Dusty Springfield, Linda Ronstadt and The Zombies while Matt’s production gives them just the right amount of golden era sheen. Whether Zooey’s channeling Ronnie Spector as on “I Was Made For You” or joining Matt in turning The Beatles “I Should Have Known Better” into a seductive hula guitar duet, the results are always captivating.
Merge Records’ Website, She & Him: http://www.mergerecords.com/store/store_detail.php?catalog_id=530
MySpace, She & Him: http://www.myspace.com/sheandhim
EDIT: The more I listen to these two, the more I fall in love with their style, which is so obviously retro, it’s endearing.
EDIT, Part II: Since I have the full album now, I thought I might as well give VOLUME ONE a rating, if that means anything:
Back to the classics. 8/10.
Pitchfork agrees! 7.4/10. : http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/record_review/49188-volume-one