Album Review: She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas
There’s always been something a little contrived about the grand tradition of the Christmas album. Artists who have fallen out of public favour so often rely on a sprinkling of christmas cheer and a carefully co-ordinated marketing strategy to line their pockets and reignite their flagging careers over the festive season. So why have She & Him (aka indie heart-throb Zooey Deschanel and esteemed folkie M. Ward) chosen to skip down the tinsel-lined path?
It certainly isn’t for want of success – M. Ward has been releasing an increasingly successful string of albums since 1999, and it’s nigh on impossible to turn on the TV without seeing Zooey’s porcelain features blinking blithely back at you. Perhaps they’ve just been overtaken by the holiday spirit – and indeed, there are moments in ‘A Very She & Him Christmas’ that seem to be extemporaneous displays of fancy-free holiday bliss. Take gorgeous rendition of jazz standard ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’, which finds Zooey and Matt switching roles – Zooey taking on the role of hot toddy-pushing seductress, while Matt fumbles with his mittens and mumbles nervously about getting home to his mother. Or whimsical cover of Sinatra standard ‘The Christmas Waltz’, which dreamily sets Zooey’s honeyed vocals against M. Ward’s lazy, Californian guitar pickings. Admittedly, She & Him don’t get it right every time – Zooey’s rendition of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ is a little dead behind the eyes, and their cover of ‘Silver Bells’ transforms an already leaden song into something akin to a dirge – but overall, ‘A Very She & Him Christmas’ is a remarkably uncynical effort that manages to breathe new life into a genre hackneyed beyond belief.