Saturday, December 17, 2011

She & Him - A Very She & Him Christmas Album


As the song suggests, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and I couldn’t be happier. Christmas is easily my favorite holiday of the year. Until recently I had been feeling pretty blue, but luckily the holidays have changed my attitude completely. Although it’s my favorite time of year, it can be my most frustrating and annoying time when it comes to music.

It seems like anyone and everyone has released or plans on releasing a Christmas (or as the politically correct would like me to state “holiday”) album. Whether it’s the cast of Glee or Kenny G, everyone seems to be cashing in on the holiday spirit. In the past five years, there have only been two Christmas albums that have made a lasting impact on this Christmas music Scrooge. Back in 2006, Twisted Sister released their Christmas themed album A Twisted Christmas, putting their twisted spin on holiday classics. A Twisted Christmas is a must listen and must buy for all hard rock/metal fans. Now I have a new Christmas CD I adore, which was recently released by the folk duo She & Him called A Very She & Him Christmas.

She & Him is comprised of award-winning actress Zooey Deschanel (best known for her roles in films like (500) Days of Summer, Yes Man, Almost Famous and Our Idiot Brother) and Matt Ward a.k.a. M. Ward (Monsters of Folk). She & Him also happens to be one of my favorite musical duos. Ever since I first heard Zooey Deschanels’s astonishing voice in the film Elf (2003) I knew she would be an awesome lead singer. Fortunately for all of us, she has done just that with She & Him. When I first heard the news about A Very She & Him Christmas I was extremely excited and wanted to buy the album immediately. During my Christmas shopping (in November) I gave myself an early present and bought the album. I could hardly contain myself as I was extremely ecstatic with my purchase.

Zooey Deschanel is a very underrated actress and singer. Deschanel’s hit TV show New Girl highlights her talent not only as the star of the show, but as the composer and singer of the delightful theme song as well. Deschanel is simply irresistible and the whole package. Much like contemporaries Jack Black (Tenacious D), Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars), Adrian Grenier (The Honey Brothers), Billy Bob Thornton (The Boxmasters), Jason Schwartzman (Coconut Records), Juliette Lewis (Juliette and the Licks and The New Romantiques),and Shane West (The Germs), Zooey Deschanel has sustained a fruitful film career while also maintaining a successful music career.

After releasing their critically successful debut album Volume One in 2008 and their sophomore album Volume Two in 2010, She & Him continue creating quality music. Besides being the primary lead singer, Deschanel also plays piano, banjo, percussion, xylophone and ukulele while Ward contributes guitars, mandolin, vibes, synthesizer and organ. She & Him released their sweet and satisfying A Very She & Him Christmas before Thanksgiving. The album consists of 12 impressive tracks, which are hip and awesome renditions perfect for the whole family. Zooey Deschanel is absolutely adorable throughout and proves why she is an indie darling.

The album kicks off with “A Christmas Waltz” and “Christmas Day,” but its track three when the album truly begins with a soulful, subtle rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Originally performed and introduced by Judy Garland in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is best known for Frank Sinatra’s version and has become one of the most iconic Christmas songs of all time. This slow, sexy performance is an interesting interpretation.

Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is iconic, but She & Him do it justice with an equally moving version in their own right. I love this impressive indie take on a classic song I adore. The interactions between Deschanel and Ward on “Christmas Wish,” “Silver Bells” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” are remarkable and warrant rejoicing. Their happiness creates undeniable warmth on this solid Christmas album.

Deschanel’s bouncy voice on “Sleigh Ride” is one of the album’s highlights. When Deschanel and Ward are singing together, the sweet sound of their voices is the perfect gift for this Christmas. Another delightful track worth mentioning is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." Brenda Lee’s version is phenomenal, but She & Him’s version gives me goose bumps. Like a light switch, this version turns me onto the holiday spirit. The first few times I listened to it I was dancing around my house because I was super excited. I love that feeling!

No one can beat Bing Crosby’s version of “Silver Bells.” However, how many awesome versions are played with the ukulele and sung by an angel? Only on this album does that happen. This version is a subtle, sincere rendition for folk fans to enjoy this holiday season. She & Him have mastered making merry Christmas covers in their own unique way. The affectionate endearing "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" showcases both Ward and Deschanel’s singing capabilities. This delightful duo demonstrates what beautiful music they can create and I love every moment of it.

Every single time I hear “Blue Christmas,” I immediately think of the Christmas special The Year Without A Santa Claus. Elvis Presley popularized the tune and it has since become a Christmas staple in country music. Even this rendition feels very folksy and country-like with its super slow pace, but extremely effective and emotional. Maybe it’s just because I’m recently single, but this song really resonates with me. Nonetheless, it’s a touchy song I thoroughly enjoy.

Not many people can create a catchy cover, but somehow She & Him accomplish that with “Little Saint Nick.” Much like “Silver Bells,” the ukulele is utilized and perfectly captures the energy and originality of The Beach Boys’ classic. Brian Wilson and Mike Love’s cool Christmas classic remains fresh, catchy and feels like you can play it all year round.

A Very She & Him Christmas concludes with arguably the most famous Christmas song of all time, “The Christmas Song" better known as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." Nat King Cole made this song famous in the late 1940s. Much like the original, this charming rendition is worthwhile. A Very She & Him Christmas is not your traditional Christmas album, but it’s perfect for creating holiday cheer. Even the liner notes/CD booklet act as a Christmas card from She & Him writing, “Best Wishes for your Happiness this Holiday Season.” If you’re looking for a quirky, cute Christmas album worth discovering than A Very She & Him Christmas is that album.

--Brownstone









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