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Volume One

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Album Review

She is actress Zooey Deschanel; Him is alt-singer/songwriter M. Ward. The two met on the set of a movie, found some musical common ground, and began working together. Volume One is the resulting album and it's one of the better albums made recently by a movie star, male or female. Good enough, in fact, that it even heads off the obligatory suspicions that she only got to make a record because she was a Hollywood star. After a few spins of the album, one could make a compelling case that Deschanel could quit her day job, or at least justifiably call herself an actress/musician. The common ground that the duo explores on Volume One is a sweet place where light-'60s pop meets strummy country tunes and candy-coated folk, a mythical meeting place between Sandie Shaw and Tammy Wynette with cameos by Richard & Linda Thompson. Deschanel's songs are simple and sad tales of heartbreak and missed connections, with hooky melodies and not a single artless moment to be found. For sure, there's not a single instance that sounds like she got the gig because of who she is instead of what she can do. Even if her songs were weak, her strong, assured vocals would carry the day. Sweet and rich with no annoying folky warble, she can croon ("Take It Back"), cry ("Sentimental Heart"), be playful (the bubblegum snappy "I Was Made for You"), or just sweep you off your feet with sweetness ("Sweet Darlin'," which she co-wrote with another artist who overcomes his Hollywood roots, Jason Schwartzman). As for Ward, he keeps his quirks mostly to himself, providing sympathetic backing unadorned by the kind of tricks and gimmicks that make his own albums slightly uneven. The occasional whistle here or slightly unconventional string arrangement there are the only traces of his usual artistry on Volume One. The rest of the time he and the band (which includes the ubiquitous Mike Mogis) create a soft, gentle feel equally inspired by the Brill Building and the Countrypolitan sound of Nashville in the late '50s. The only place the album falters is on the two covers the duo attempts. Deschanel doesn't add much to "You Really Got a Hold on Me," and Ward's backing vocals are just the kind of affected, arch singing she avoids elsewhere. Their take on the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better" is better, but still awfully close to a novelty. The album would have been more successful without both tracks, but even with them, it stands as a nice coming out party for Deschanel. If you run screaming at the thought of singing actresses, give She & Him a chance and they might calm your fears. You may even forget the origins of the singer and simply be charmed by the singing, the songs, and the sounds found on Volume One.

Biography

Formed: 2006 in Portland, OR

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

She & Him feature the somewhat unlikely pairing of country-folk artist M. Ward and actress/singer/songwriter Zooey Deschanel. While starring in the 2007 film The Go-Getter, Deschanel was asked by director Martin Hynes to perform a duet with Ward, who had agreed to helm the movie's soundtrack. The two recorded a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson's "When I Get to the Border" and later reconvened in Portland, where they began recording Deschanel's original songs (which the actress had previously...
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Volume One, She & Him
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