There is no doubt that you’re familiar with Zooey Deschanel. Between her role in “Elf,” her singing of the National Anthem at the World Series, various indie flicks, and her new “adorkable” (I cringe at typing that) series “New Girl,” Deschanel has certainly made a name for herself. However, not everyone is aware of her band, She & Him, with indie mainstay M. Ward. You may be familiar with M. Ward’s solo work in folk supergroup Monsters of Folk, or in collaborations with Bright Eyes. Clearly, Deschanel and Ward make for a match made in indie heaven.
Their previous releases, Volume One and Volume Two, were widely praised so hopes were high for their holiday release of A Very She & Him Christmas. Of course, Deschanel has become less worshiped in the indie/hipster world what with her over-the-top portrayal of a dorky and annoying Manic Pixie Dream Girl in “New Girl.” As such, it is of no surprise that the hipster music Bible (Pitchfork) tore apart A Very She & Him Christmas. I, on the other hand, will put aside my distaste for her overly dorky performance in her new show and review this album objectively- well, as objectively as I can as both a lover of Christmas music and of She & Him.
Album opener “The Christmas Waltz” brings Deschanel’s soft and fanciful vocals to the forefront, reminding us of a lounge songstress serenading us by the fireplace. Her voice truly shines on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” with beautifully low vocals and sparse instrumentals. Similarly, “Blue Christmas” is stunning with Deschanel’s vintage vocals, giving some deep power to her often light voice.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” is yet another Deschanel showcase, depending greatly on her sultry vocals and perfectly accented by the string accompaniment. While this doesn’t bring anything new to the Christmas standard, it is certainly nothing to frown upon. Also not adding much of anything new to the classic, “Christmas Day” is at least one of the more upbeat tracks on the album.
We finally get a taste of M. Ward’s cool vocals on “Christmas Wish,” beautifully complemented by lovely harmonies with Deschanel. “Sleigh Ride” again utilizes both vocalists, though it’s not very enlightening. Similarly, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” doesn’t really rock, but it is a bit more upbeat. Speaking of not rocking, “Silver Bells” comes off as quite dreary.
Refreshingly, Ward and Deschanel do a role-reversal with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” giving a new spin on an old classic duet. “Little Saint Nick” is one of my favorites on the album, taking me back a few decades with the old school style. Album closer “The Christmas Song” is quite beautiful, but again doesn’t bring much of anything new to the song.
Overall, this album is not their best, but by no means their worst. She & Him usually shines as a light, summery duo and so the band’s Christmas offering is likely to be different than what we normally expect of them. This album certainly brings warm seasonal feelings in a vintage package, but is not for those searching for a cheery, upbeat Christmas album. As for me, I would feel perfectly happy playing this on my record player while peers and grandparents alike enjoy the holiday tunes.