She & Him – Volume One

The track record of actors turned musicians is not a strong one. Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Lindsay Lohan, Juliette Lewis — crap, all of it. It doesn’t seem to work the other way around, though. Plenty of musicians (especially rappers) make fine actors. I guess singing is already a form of acting, while the reverse isn’t true.

I mention this to point out why the success of She & Him is a very special achievement. Zooey Deschanel (Almost Famous, Elf, All the Real Girls) is the “she” in She & Him, while the “him” is alternative singer-songwriter M. Ward. But the band’s name is deceiving, because this is truly Deschanel’s work. She wrote all the original songs and sings every track, while Ward handles production and plays the guitar.

Deschanel doesn’t just break the actor curse, she shatters it. Anyone who enjoyed Elf (and who doesn’t enjoy Elf?) probably remembers her soulful renditions of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’ Her voice is absolutely charming, the kind of laid-back swooning sound you hear in clips from the 1940s.

Her songwriting is quite solid as well — a mix of doo-wop, easy country and swing. Her tunes are so strong that the album’s weakest moments are two covers (‘You Really Got a Hold On Me’ and The Beatles’ ‘I Should Have Known Better’). It’s not that those songs aren’t great (on the contrary, they’re classics), but they break the unique mood she’s established with her own songs.

While I hope Deschanel’s success doesn’t give any ideas to other wannabe-singer actors, I’m definitely looking forward to Volume Two.

3 thoughts on “She & Him – Volume One

  1. Amy says:

    I’m glad to read your positive review, as this album intrigued me the moment I first read about it several months ago. Not because it was the work of an actress turned singer/songwriter, but because it promised to offer the kind of music I tend to enjoy – thoughtful acoustic songs 🙂

    Any standouts? I’m using the extra day of summer vacation to prepare our playlist, and we’re busy shopping at the iTunes store.

  2. Clay says:

    This is a copout, but I really like them all. If I had to pick a handful, I’d go with these:

    ‘This is Not a Test’
    ‘Change is Hard’ (country-ish)
    ‘I Was Made For You’ (50s feel)
    ‘Sentimental Heart’
    ‘Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” (this is the single… can find the whole thing on YouTube)

  3. Amy says:

    Thanks. I think I’ll start with the single, then go from there.

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