Top 10 Albums of 2008: #8 – Volume One by She & Him

She and Him is a late addition to this year’s list, as I really only started spending a lot of time with this disc over the last month or so. Once I did get into the album, however, I simply could not get Volume One out of my head (still can’t). This is a very refreshing album that brings a little bit of folk flavored 60’s pop into the 21st Century. Paste Magazine recently declared this their album of the year.

The story of She and Him is almost as interesting as the music itself.

“She” is actress Zooey Deschanel, who is probably best known (to me at least) for her role as Jovie in the 2003 holiday movie Elf alongside Will Farrell. Viewers actually got a preview of Deschanel’s voice in that movie when she and Farrell dueted on the Christmas classic, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

“Him” is musician M. Ward, who is mostly known for his own brand of moody and atmospheric folk-tinged indie-rock. Ward has released six solo albums and has recorded with Bright Eyes, Norah Jones, Jenny Lewis, and Jolie Holland among others. While I’ve been aware of M. Ward for some time… I will ashamedly admit to not being overly familiar with his solo career. I welcome any recommendations or links in the comments.

The duo met while working on the 2007 film, The Go-Getter. The director asked Deschanel, who starred in the film, to perform a duet with Ward, who had signed on as the soundtrack director. They recorded a stunning cover of Richard and Linda Thompson’s “When I Get to the Border.” Later on, the pair reconvened, began working on some of Deschanel’s original material, and created some of the sweetest sounds of 2008.

After listening to the album for the first time, I was surprised to find that Deschanel had written the majority of the tunes herself. The songs were so sweet and instantly familiar, that I was sure I had heard most of them before. As it turns out though, the record contains only two covers, Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me” and The Beatles’ “I Should Have Known Better,” and one co-write with Phantom Planet front man (and fellow actor) Jason Schwartzman. The rest is all Deschanel.

An album like this featuring a pair of such unlikely collaborators may seem like a bit of a novelty… especially given the often horrendous results of previous actor turned musician projects. Unlike those typical vanity projects, this is a fully realized album driven by Deschanel’s heavenly vocals and guided by Ward’s accomplished production. And while the duo have both returned to their day jobs (Deschanel currently stars in Yes Man with Jim Carrey, and Ward plans to release a new solo disc, Hold Time, in February of ’09), plans for Volume Two have been discussed. I’ll be waiting.

She and Him: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here (Buy Album)
She and Him: Sweet Darlin’ (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Top 10 Albums of 2008: #8 – Volume One by She & Him”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, wonderful stuff, I ended up getting the album. I agree with you about the retro feel, but this is definitely a good twist.

  2. Glad you liked it. I always love hearing that someone went out to buy an album after finding it on this site. It lends credence to my argument that bloggers help the artists they support.

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