Millions of people first heard Zooey Deschanel’s voice during her shower duet of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Will Ferrell in the movie Elf.
Four years later Deschanel recorded a song for the movie The Go-Getter with established indie singer M. Ward. The two then came together to form the band She & Him and record its debut album, Volume One.
The record is a tribute to old pop and folk songs from the early 20th century; both Ward’s guitar playing and Deschanel’s classic sounding voice contribute. The duo manages to take these dated sounds and, in all but a few instances, make them their own.
There’s something about Deschanel’s voice that is reminiscent of Billie Holiday at times and Carole King at others. She brings a sorrowful sound to the original songs — all written by her — while Ward supplies a multitude of instruments and the back-up vocals.
The entire album plays like a love letter. The songs are full of longing and unrequited love for the most part, and the duo even covers The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better” and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
The rest of the album is full of Deschanel’s original lyrics, which shine the brightest on “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?”, which is a plea for her love to come and realize they are meant for each other.
The other highlight of the song is “Sentimental Heart.” During this quieter song Deschanel’s vintage sounding voice croons, “Piece of the puzzle and you’re my missing part/Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?/Cried all night ‘til there was nothing more/What use am I as a heap on the floor?”
Ward manages to show his creative side with the music on “This is Not a Test.” The track uses a tambourine and a faux trumpet sound, which Ward makes with his own mouth instead of an instrument. Yet, these two typically “cheesy” sounds fit the song and lighten the melancholic mood of the album.
One of the weaker songs on the album,
“I Was Made For You,” is too 1960s pop and takes the classic sound too far. However, “Sweet Darlin’” manages to take that same sound, but temper it in a way that makes the song catchy.
The cover of The Beatles’ song is weak, even though the music’s island-like quality is intriguing. The last song is the weakest link on the album; “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” is too slow, and it’s a misplaced way to end an otherwise sweet and inventive album.
The overall album’s homage to the classic singers from decades ago is a unique take and could only be done with Deschanel’s voice. She does right by those singers that she looks up to and manages to create fun, low-key songs.
With such a solid release on Volume One, hopefully a Volume Two is on its way.