She & Him - Volume One


Set 14 2009, 18h53

Welcome to the new and I hope permanent theme of my journal - celebrity vanity albums. I listen to them basically all the time, and I'm starting with a fun one.
Zooey Deschanel's debut duet album Volume One should have come as a surprise to no one. Between 2003 and 2007, Zooey Deschanel was running parallel with 2003-2004 Lindsay Lohan; she barely acted in any movies for which she didn't also record a song for the soundtrack. An album was clearly imminent. But who could have anticipated that she'd team up with M. Ward and release something as totally awesome as She & Him: Volume One?
Yes, the album has some stupid twee mythology about who She & Him are (a little reminiscent of early Belle and Sebastian claiming they'd got their name from something other than a kids' TV show). But more importantly, M. Ward's vocals are barely present on this album.
Experimenting with more than a few different genres, Zooey Deschanel uses the fact that she is already famous to record an album that makes no compromises, for good and bad. Mandy Moore claims that her first albums, "the early, sucky ones" were a result of record company pressure to record an album that would be a breakout pop sensation (see details of her being pretty awesome here). Zooey Deschanel doesn't have to worry about any of that, so she can just go completely crazy here. On the better end of this spectrum is the opening track, Sentimental Heart (Deschanel wrote or cowrote all but three tracks on the album), which opens with nothing but Deschanel's voice and (presumably) Ward on piano, eventually soaring into Deschanel backed by a chorus of (presumably) more Deschanels (when she uses herself as a backup group, one cannot help be reminded of
Paul Simon turning Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard into a duet with himself following his breakup with Art Garfunkel), introducing us to the portions of this album that most clearly hearken back to early 60's girl groups. The weaker end of this spectrum (and possibly the worst recording in history ever ever) is the final track, Deschanel's a cappella recording of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, which is self-indulgent in a way only seen elsewhere in Judd Apatow's "Funny People." It actually manages to be worse than the closing track of Neko Case's excellent Middle Cyclone, Marais la Nuit, a half-hour long recording of nature sounds.
The standout track on this album, in my opinion, is the second song, Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?, which I have previously blogged about here, so I will save you the rehashing, except to say that this album is probably an example of the best a celebrity vanity album can be (even when it ventures into the bizarre, as in Deschanel's cover of The Beatles' I Should Have Known Better as a country-western tune).


  • mnjo

    Zooey didn't use her fame to record an album, she had a love and talent for singing before she even started acting. That's why she sings in almost every movie she's in. Because she can. Zooey Deschanel's music career is nothing like any other actress-turned-singer. Zooey is a passionate and talented singer/songwriter that also happens to be wonderful as an actress. This is anything but a vanity album.

    Out 2 2009, 17h18
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