Album: She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas (Merge, 2011)
Zooey Deschanel delivers her vocals so nonchalantly that it’s hard to conclude how hard she’s trying. However, the chemistry between her and M. Ward, her instrumental (and sometimes vocal) partner is undeniable. In fact, the coolness she exhibits in her performance is actually part of the charm of the group. Sounding like a musical act that time traveled from the 1950s and 1960s – back when Christmas albums seemed to be delivering classic after classic – a Christmas album is seemingly a perfect match for the group.
Feeding into that age, they cover classic hits from those decades biggest stars: Ray Charles (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”), Elvis Presley (“Blue Christmas”), and The Beach Boys (“Little Saint Nick”). Of those three, “Blue Christmas” is her best vocal effort sounding like Linda Ronstadt (and I mean that as a compliment). After all, MOR tunes aren’t always a bad thing when you get a pristine vocal like this. In a close second is their take on the Beach Boys classic. The background vocals aren’t as crisp as those of the Hawthorne, CA, group’s, but I truly admire that they kept them in there. Recreating their harmonies has to be intimidating, but it gives the track extra layers and pays a great homage.
The highlight of the album is the dreamy “The Christmas Waltz” with its lazy strumming. For me, it brings to mind standing by a window looking out at the snow falling while the moon glistens on a blanketed hill of white powder. It’s peaceful and relaxing. (Note: It’s downloadable in the embedded soundcloud player.)
Adding a bit of Christmas charm to the packaging is the way they placed the liner notes as a Christmas card in a red envelope on the inside of the CD. By no stretch is this going to become a holiday classic, but it’s still a fun one to throw in your Christmas collection for a batch of tunes to play while you bake cookies or decorate your house. For a small $3.99 investment, Amazon is offering the digital version for a limited time low price.