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Et tu, Zooey Deschanel? - She and Him: Volume One (2008) - Music Review
Zooey is cute. Really cute and talented. And she's an actress that's made a record, but don't let that scare you away. She can write. Just about all of the lyrics are hers and they...sing. They sing like the family canary in the morning - sweet and simple.
I only wish she had some songs with a little more...spunk. This volume is fine, simple, maybe the next volume will have a little more rock and roll. If this little 80s born girl can write it like this now, I can't wait till she grows up. And if she reaches deep inside, it'll be incredible stuff coming out.
I like the album, even think I get it to some extent and enjoy it's place in my introspective wistful moods. I can't help but compare it to Wonderwall, the German girl group, and wish Volume One had a nice kicker like Wonderwall's 'Apple Tree' to spice things up. Maybe Volume Two?
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.
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.
California-raised and Portland-based, M. Ward has released 4 records with Merge, his latest was "Post-War" (2006). He has collaborated with the likes of Neko Case, Conor Oberst, Jim James, Nels Cline, and Jenny Lewis. California based Deschanel spent much of her early life singing in choirs, which is probably why she likes harmonies so much. She also enjoys reading, dancing and playing the piano. She & Him have performed together on occasion over the last year and enjoyed it very much.
She & Him: Volume One
Matt Ward and Zooey Deschanel secure Paste’s album of 2008.
The sound at Park City, Utah’s Sundance House is terrible, and a chunk of the crowd is more interested in chattering and munching on hors d’oeuvres than paying attention to the duo on guitar and piano, even if it is the debut performance of what will eventually be known as She & Him—the collaboration between indie-music darling M. Ward and movie star Zooey Deschanel. This 2007 Sundance Festival audience doesn’t get high points for attentiveness—they’ve already pretty much ignored Glen Hansard of The Frames playing alongside Markéta Irglová, his co-star in the buzzing film Once.
Hansard is just another in a long line of musicians who’ve successfully crossed over to the silver screen, following in the footsteps of Tom Waits, Kris Kristofferson, Mos Def and Will Oldham. But the trail going the other way—from acting to music—is littered with punchlines: Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon, Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze. So, for the lucky few paying attention, hearing Deschanel croon standards like “Mr. Sandman” and “I Put a Spell on You” in her seductive soprano is a treat. She and Ward are in town to help promote The Go-Getter, a film that closes with the pair singing Richard & Linda Thompson’s “When I Get to the Border” as the credits roll. Anyone with children or a Will Ferrell fixation heard Deschanel’s lovely voice in Elf, so her collaboration with a quirky guitarist who’s also from Southern California isn’t a complete surprise.
Singing has long been more than Deschanel’s hobby. In 2001, she started playing in a cabaret act with fellow actress Samantha Shelton. “I did a lot of music and stuff in high school,” Deschanel says, “but as an adult, I just needed a way to play music, and [the cabaret thing] was a safe way for me to be able to sing and test out the waters. I would transpose all the music for the band, and it’s amazing to see all the core structures that Gershwin and Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart used.”
The big secret, though, were the hundreds of original songs Deschanel had stored on her computer. She’d been writing songs since she was a kid, and by her early 20s she was recording demos, layering vocal harmonies over piano and guitar.
Ward convinced Deschanel to send him some of the demos, and the two decided to record an album. The idea that this might come across as just another Hollywood starlet’s vanity project never struck either of them. “We talked about songs, we talked about records and music and how to record stuff,” Ward says. “And I guess the best way for me and Zooey is to record in some sort of bubble you create for yourself that doesn’t really take into account Bruce Willis.”
They quickly discovered that they shared an affinity for timeless music; they’d even grown up listening to the same oldies station in Los Angeles, K-Earth 101. “When I met Matt,” Deschanel says, “I was like, ‘I don’t want to record with anyone else!’ It was so clear to me: ‘This is the only person who will be able to do this. This is the guy who has to make a record with me.’”
“After I heard all of the songs,” Ward says, “they sounded like they all fit together in a really interesting way that I had never heard before. I just felt like I had been exposed to this great artist that nobody really knew about as far as her songwriting. When people think of Zooey Deschanel, they didn’t used to think ‘songwriter.’ The whole thing was just a complete no-brainer. These were awesome songs that needed to be heard.”
And they are. If you would’ve suggested back when we launched the magazine that Zooey Deschanel would write most of the songs on Paste’s favorite record of 2008, we’d have thought that about as likely as Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California. But the 13 songs on Volume One are lovely throwbacks to blissful ’60s pop, tastefully arranged and produced by the über-talented Ward. And Deschanel loves her new career so much, plans for Volume Two are already under way.
“I would rather be a songwriter than be an actor,” she says. “I’m grateful I’ve been so fortunate to have success as an actor, but being a songwriter is just creatively so satisfying. I know this is silly because I’m 28 years old, but this is all new to me, to be playing shows—there are people who know the words to the songs and are singing these melodies that were born in my bedroom. It’s amazing to me to give them a life, and they go and live on their own. I feel like that’s sort of some little microcosm of what parents feel like with children.”
|1. Sentimental Heart|
|2. Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?|
|3. This Is Not A Test|
|4. Change Is Hard|
|5. I Thought I Saw Your Face Today|
|6. Take It Back|
|7. I Was Made For You|
|8. You Really Gotta Hold On Me|
|9. Black Hole|
|10. Got Me|
|11. I Should Have Known Better|
|12. Sweet Darlin'|