She & Him Give Christmas Songs the Retro Treatment
- Monday, December 12, 2011
Artist: She & Him
Title: A Very She & Him Christmas
Label: Merge Records
In case you haven't gotten the memo, Zooey Deschanel, better known as the positively adorkable Jess on TV's "New Girl," is taking over the world with her quirky throwback charms.
And since she's already won cool points with the hipster set for starring in a show that's definitely cut from a different sitcom cloth, it only makes sense that her take on the Christmas songs everyone knows and loves would be a little left of center, too.
While most artists tackling the holiday catalog opt for the over-the-top, orchestral arrangements with all the bells and whistles since that's what people have grown to expect, you can't help but applaud Zooey and M. Ward (the "him" of She & Him) for immediately establishing a more stripped-down, earthy vibe.
But there's a fine line between scaled-back and forgettable, and sadly, most of A Very She & Him Christmas falls into the latter category. In fact, save for the occasional—and we do mean occasional—change in tempo, it's the sort of music that's so unassuming and polite, you could easily ignore it altogether while sipping your favorite Starbucks' latte.
While so many songs of the season, take "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for example, have an inherent sense of melancholy lurking beneath the surface, you'd probably think these tracks would be the best match for the duo's folky style.
But with a delivery that often borders on dispassionate since Deschanel's retro vocals routinely fail to capture much emotion, it's actually the more upbeat material like "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "The Christmas Waltz" where She & Him shines brightest.
Even "Baby, It's Cold Outside," once a scene-stealing movie moment she shared with Will Ferrell in Elf, sounds a bit joyless here. Same goes for those "chestnuts roasting on a open fire" in their closing take on "The Christmas Song," which only underscores how even the most evocative songwriting can't save a so-so performance, which is what She & Him's Christmas is chock full off.
*This review first published 12/12/2011
**Listen to this album on Spotify
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