19 March, 2008

M. Ward & Zooey (not a J.D. Salinger novel)

For a long time I've been hoping that Zooey Deschanel would get her musical act together and record some tunes. It all started with her gorgeous cover of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in Elf, then I heard her little cameos on the Coconut Records album and I was craving more of her winning vocals.

Yesterday marked the release of Volume One by She & Him. The she is Zooey Deschanel and the him is M. Ward. This album is ridiculously fun. It's simple, direct, and the acoustic tracks perfectly accompany Zooey's homey, old-fashioned sounding voice.

I'm going to begin at the end and work my way back. "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" is recorded at mumble volume, and the static and humming give it the sound of something made in the rain. "Sweet Darlin'" grabs the spirit of '50s harmonizing girl groups, but layers Zooey's voice so that the wisps of sound are spooky. "I Should Have Known Better" pulls out the lap-steel and tropical percussion, and makes the Beatles song sound like something you would play at a luau. "Got Me" is a soft, country shuffle and Zooey channels June Carter with ease. "Black Hole" echoes and swings, while "You Really Got A Hold On Me" sparkles with regret. I've only reviewed half of the album, but I want to leave some surprises for my readers.

Every track has its own character, and every track is its own little time-capsule in musical history. Each bubble of sound stands uniquely, and yet fits perfectly into the final puzzle of Volume One. You wouldn't necessarily think that "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and "I Should Have Known Better" would work so well together, but then again, you wouldn't necessarily think that M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel would collaborate so well on an album. Preconceived notions should constantly be challenged, and Volume One challenges with flare.

No comments: