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She & Him make indie Christmas gold in third album

Carrie Turek | Monday, November 7, 2011

Baby, it’s cold outside! With Halloween in the rear-view, and with Thanksgiving fast approaching, it is prime time to break out the Christmas tunes. With the Oct. 24 release of “A Very She & Him Christmas,” Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are just in time with the Christmas cheer.

It seems that FOX’s “New Girl” has become the current “it girl.” Zooey Deschanel is a Jill-of-all-trades. Not only is she a seasoned actress, known for roles in “(500) Days of Summer” and “Yes Man,” but she is also a talented singer. As one half of the quirky indie-pop duo, She & Him, Zooey Deschanel is making waves in all areas of entertainment.

Observant viewers may first noticed Deschanel’s vocal abilities when she sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in the modern Christmas classic, “Elf.” She is back — this time with singer/songwriter M. Ward — warming hearts with a new interpretation of the same song, and 11 others.

She & Him began as a “no strings attached” collaboration between Deschanel and Ward. The two began working together in a simple attempt to produce Deschanel’s soulful and honest lyrics. The acclaim of their first album led to a strong fan following and more than hopeful reviews.

Ward explained his collaboration with Deschanel on their website: “Zooey would write and I would produce and arrange. It’s been the most natural extension of our interests and abilities.”

Their interests and abilities are surely wide and wonderful. Ward’s bibliography is as extensive as Deschanel’s, including seven full-length albums, the most recent of which was released in 2009 (“Hold Time”). In addition to his solo-work and his involvement with She & Him, Ward is also a part of Monsters of Folk, a group comprised of M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (both of Bright Eyes) and Jim James (of My Morning Jacket). Like Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward’s presence in the indie music world is wide-reaching and still growing.

“A Very She & Him Christmas” was released as the third album for She & Him, containing classic Christmas songs revived and refreshed. Drawing on She & Him’s classic, quirky charm and channeling the tones of musicians like The Carpenters and the Beach Boys, “A Very She & Him Christmas” adds a new twist to traditional holiday songs.

Staying true to She & Him’s instrumental style, present in both “Volume One” (2008) and “Volume Two” (2010), Deschanel’s piano and ukulele-playing abilities are showcased alongside Ward’s guitar and organ-playing talents. They project a comfortable, intimate charm onto classic songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Silver Bells.” The addition of the ukulele, partnered with Ward’s rich low tones and Deschanel’s jazzy energy somehow manage to lend a tropical, on-the-beach feeling to otherwise wintry songs. Deschanel inserts a playful and contagious curiosity into these Christmas classics, compelling listeners to reconsider and reflect upon already well-known lyrics.

Unlike She & Him’s previous two albums, Ward’s vocals are featured prominently on “A Very She & Him Christmas.” His voice is surprisingly smooth and a lovely accent to Deschanel’s endearing vocal quality. The harmonies produced in “Sleigh Ride” and its upbeat tempo, coupled with the guitar and slight reverberation, produce a classic Christmas song nestled nicely between now and yesteryear. She & Him’s indie roots lead to a multitude of brief guitar solos interspersed among the requisite jingle bells.

As only the quirky Deschanel can, She & Him transforms sometimes expected and overdone holiday tunes into fresh tracks, complete with a child-like, wondering interpretation of lyrics and light harmonies. Adding to the appeal of “A Very She & Him Christmas” is the donation that She & Him will make to 826 National with the purchase of each album. 826 National is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing services in writing to underprivileged children ages 6-18.

A Very She & Him Christmas is a treat for She & Him fans and Christmas lovers alike. Deschanel’s sweet voice and Ward’s strong, expressive vocal and instrumental support combine to produce a cheer-evoking feeling and an exciting Christmas mood, perfect for these almost-chilly November days.