Release Date: Dec 2, 2014
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
While the release of another standards album doesn't always elicit cries of celebration, some artists are perfectly suited to such a task. Taking a romp around their own bailiwick is a breeze for pop classicists like She & Him, who offer up this platter of elegantly conceived cover songs that resembles the very source material that probably inspired their first three albums of original fare. The warm, vintage pop, jazz, and country that Zooey Deschanel and M.
She & Him, the collaborative outfit for singer and actress Zooey Deschanel and guitarist and producer M. Ward, reunite for the fifth time with this all-covers collection of classic vocal tunes. Simply entitled Classics, the 13 tracks on their major-label debut were all originally written between 1930-1974. With Deschanel’s perfectly airy and retro vocals and Ward’s diverse and underrated guitar skills, the super-duo bring their indie pop influences to Classics and end up with modern renditions of songs beloved by previous generations.
Ever since Will Ferrell caught Zooey Deschanel silkily crooning “Baby It's Cold Outside” in the shower in Elf, the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl seemed destined to release an album of pop standards. It's taken over a decade, but for an actress whose film and television roles have practically defined hipster adorkability in the 21st century, Deschanel proves herself uncannily adaptable to the more refined musical tropes of Classics. Although the 13 songs on Classics, her fifth studio album with musical partner M.
She & Him can wind people up the wrong way, and you can totally see why: they’re a musical distillation of this entire hipster (whatever that means now,) vintage-worshiping, olde-worlde-fetishising, retro-for-retro's-sake world that singer Zoe Deschanel is the living embodiment of. Deschanel may be guilty only of the crime of seeming nice, looking nice, liking nice things, wearing nice clothes and starring as nice people in films, but she doesn’t half get on people's wick. Pair her with Matt 'M.
She & Him might need a time machine. After three albums and a Christmas record, the duo’s pretty, uncomplicated pop songs keep harkening back to decades they were too young to experience first-hand; a bit of 1960s Loretta Lynn country here, a bit of '70s Carpenters’ sunny pop there. So it was hardly surprising when M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel announced that their next release would be Classics, a cover album of 13 of their favorite old-school songs.
Give the same record to 13 PopMatters writers, and each will come up with a completely different type of review. This is not just down to personal opinion and taste, but stylistic approach, as well as all of us having diverse ideas about music and culture and how we best get those ideas across to the reader. Similarly, give 13 songs to different musicians and, more often that not, they will all come up with varying interpretations.
Covers albums can be tricky things, with their success (or failure) hinging on the artists' ability to pay homage while making each song their own. The fifth album from indie-pop duo She & Him (comprised of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel) finds the pair exploring a variety of pop hits from the 1930s-1970s.
She & HimClassics(Columbia)Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Even at their most indie, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward always approached their music with a retro mindset. So, it’s little surprise that the duo known as She & Him finally decided to delve into the classic pop American songbook that always seemed to be bubbling under their slight yet enticing originals.
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's She and Him have always been fundamentally rooted in musical nostalgia for sunny Sixties pop. For their fifth album – a covers record composed largely of pre-rock standards popularized by singers like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald – the duo shift focus to the Forties and Fifties. The surprisingly loungy results are unusually daring for these two: Deschanel and Ward pare back the melodrama of "Unchained Melody" and Johnny Mathis' "It's Not for Me to Say," incorporating midcentury jazz and soul crooning into their endearing retro-kitsch.
At long last, the legacy of She & Him, the passion project of guitar and studio wunderkind M. Ward and surprisingly good singer/actress Zooey Deschanel, was never going to be innovation. It's inappropriate, then, to pillory the pair for a lack of vision or ambition in a project that is essentially devoted to recreation: specifically, of bubblegum pop from an era when orchestral arrangements and five-octave ranges were the norm in the genre.
This is the fifth album from New Girl star Zooey Deschanel and Portland songwriter/guitarist M Ward. She & Him’s earlier records, ‘Volume 1’, ‘Volume 2’ and ‘Volume 3’, positioned original compositions alongside carefully chosen covers and ‘A Very She And Him Christmas’ tackled festive tunes. ‘Classics’ sees them covering 13 “timeless standards” and includes a classy version of ‘Stay Awhile’, made famous by Dusty Springfield.
Mark Kozelek, Flaming Lips (“tabbed,” above), Over the Rhine, Blind Boys of Alabama, Farmer Jason, Ol’ Blues Eyes and more: not just another tab in the ocean, we return to the holiday theme well one final time. At least until next year. Ho-ho-HO, bitches! BY THE BLURT CRÜE Ed. note: We did a wrap-up of recently-issued seasonal albums in 2012 and, against all predictions, it was well-received.
“Classics” is not holiday-themed, but make no mistake: These songs are meant for snowy nights in front of a crackling fire. She & Him, the duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, cover a lot of ground here, rendering each song with warmth and radiance. Aside from an uneasy take on “Oh No, Not My Baby,” Deschanel exudes more confidence on lead vocals — that seismic vibrato at the end of “Stars Fell on Alabama” is a lovely new flourish.
It’s really a wonder that She & Him didn’t record an album like this sooner. This is, after all, an outfit who have spent their existence fighting against the modern tide, with a transistor radio-ready pop and country throwback sound that should be familiar to anyone with a musty Burt Bacharach or Skeeter Davis record in their collections. What took Zooey Deschanel and M.
Conceptually, Classics is quintessential She & Him: The album’s 13 songs are jazz, country, and early rock ’n’ roll tunes popularized by artists such as Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra, the Righteous Brothers, and Dusty Springfield. To reinforce the throwback, black-and-white-movie vibe of Classics, the duo—guitarist M. Ward and vocalist Zooey Deschanel—recorded these songs live with a 20-piece orchestra that included brass, strings, piano, bass, flute, and drums.
It’s been six years since She & Him ambled onto the scene as the side project of saucer-eyed indie heroine Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter Matt Ward, and they’ve spent that time carving a niche as nostalgia-loving crafters of country pop. Showing zero signs of distancing themselves from musical sentimentalism for the past, they release their fifth record, Classics, filled with their takes on songs from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Dusty Springfield. And it is about there that, if you wanted to, you could sum it up.