Actors longing to burst into song are at the will of an unforgiving public ear. The sounds of Keanu Reeves, Bruce Wilson and the eternally tan David Hasselhoff cast a dark cloud over any “serious” actor looking express their musical tendencies. So it would be easy to approach She & Him with trepidation. But the duo, composed of indie troubadour M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel, is quick to defy these notions with Volume One.
Recalling Phil Specter-produced girl groups like the Ronettes and The Crystals, She & Him makes timeless pop music with modest instrumentation and Deschanel’s sugar-coated vocals. “Sentimental Heart” builds bar by bar, from mere piano and Deschanel to a climax of multi-part harmonies, sparse drumming and tambourine. From the golden “This is Not a Test” to the lounge-worthy “I Just Saw Your Face Today,” M. Ward’s orchestration is loose and understated, as is his nature
Whether easing through well-formed covers – the breezy “You Really Got A Hold On Me” and pedal-steel chilled “I Should Have Known Better” shining brghtest – or uniquely imprinted originals, Deschanel and Ward deliver layered vocals, multi-part “sha-la-las,” whistles, and other accoutrements rarely found in contemporary pop. But be advised: She & Him are not a novelty act. Volme One is an exploration of the music that has inspired two unrivaled musicians, whose hearts embrace the past and souls seek the future.
Volume One is out now on Merge Records.