Archive for the She and Him Category

Best of 2010: 21-19

Posted in Carolina Chocolate Drops, Hayshaker, She and Him, Top 21 of 2010 on December 16, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As I mentioned over the weekend, it is time to kick off the list of my favorite albums of 2010.  It’s kind of weird because it doesn’t really feel like it’s been a year since the last list. That’s probably because this year has been nothing more than one big blur.

2010 will forever be known to me as the year music took a back seat to some other things in my life. It’s the year my daughter was born and the year my priorities shifted accordingly. I wasn’t able to focus on music and writing as much as I wanted to at times, and I feel as though a few albums probably got lost in the shuffle. I know there are certainly a few albums I would have liked to spend more time with.

The posts that will follow in the next couple of weeks represent the music that didn’t get lost… my 21 favorite albums of 2010. Not the best necessarily, or the most innovative, or the critical darlings… just my personal favorites. From old favorites to new discoveries, from legends to unknowns, from string bands to Band(s) of Joy… they are the albums I keep coming back to and listening to over and over again.

So… Here we go.

#21 – Genuine Negro Jig by Carolina Chocolate Drops

The origins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops date back to 2005 when three members of a Yahoo chat group called “Black Banjo: Then and Now” met at the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, NC.  Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, and Justin Robinson found themselves to be three kindred musical spirits and they began playing together under the tutelage of old time fiddler Joe Thompson.  The three would meet at Thompson’s house every Thursday night to learn his craft and his songs.  They formed the Carolina Chocolate Drops to reintroduce the 90-year-old Thompson and his music to the world.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops released Genuine Negro Jig, their second proper studio album, in February and with it continued to package their traditional sound for modern audiences.  Robinson says the band sees tradition as a guide rather than a jailer, and on the record the band follows their guide to some fairly amazing places.  Highlights include the controversial Americana radio hit “Hit ‘Em Up Style,” the infectious instrumental “Snowden’s Jig (Genuine Negro Jig),” (read about that one here) and the traditional favorites “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and “Trouble in Your Mind.”  I’m also extremely drawn to the original tune “Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine.”

Carolina Chocolate Drops: Your Baby Ain’t Sweet Like Mine (Buy Album)

#20 – Volume Two by She & Him

She is actress Zooey Deschanel.  Him is musician M. Ward.  She & Him is a sum greater than the whole of its parts… a serendipitous collaboration that started on the movie set of The Go Getter where Deschanel was the star and Ward was the music director.  They recorded a song for the movie’s soundtrack and continued working together to produce 2008’s Volume One, one of my favorite albums of that year.

Maybe it’s because I’m now familiar with their sound, so there’s no way Volume Two could have ever sounded as fresh as Volume One, but this album never seems to reach the heights of that initial release.  That’s OK though, because this album is much more consistent than it’s predecessor and is absent some of that effort’s missteps.  Deschanel’s sugary sweet lyrics (she wrote eleven of the album’s 13 songs) are tempered perfectly by Ward’s grounded arrangements and production.  His presence keeps things from ever becoming too saccharine, as evidenced by his subtle guitar fills and powerful outro in the album’s lead single “In the Sun.”

She & Him: In the Sun (Buy Album)

#19 – Tin Roof Snare by Hayshaker

Hayshaker is a band from Waycross, GA (the childhood home of one Gram Parsons) that came out of left field to produce one my most unexpected favorites of 2010.  The band is led by the husband and wife duo of CC and Laurie Rider  along with T.W. Lott on lead guitar, Matt Starling on bass, and Josh Sharpe on pedal steel.  They’ve been making music together since 2001 and this stellar EP is their second proper release.  This is one of those albums that I discovered through the ReviewShine website, proving why that is such a great service

The first thing that jumps out when listening to this album is just how perfect CC and Laurie Rider sound singing together.  Whether building an intricate harmony, sharing a lead vocal, or delivering a playful back and forth, the two just seem to know each other’s voice.  You know it’s carefully plotted, but it just sounds so intuitive.  When their voices combine with the southern twang meets power pop hooks of their music, you come away with something truly special.

Hayshaker: The Dilemma (Buy Album)

Best of 2010/$5 Albums on Amazon

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Arcade Fire, She and Him, Spoon, Tift Merritt on October 12, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I don’t know if you’ve noticed the Amazon search box in the sidebar on the site or not. If you have, then you know this already. If not… I have recently joined the Amazon Associates program.

What that means is that if you purchase any of the music I write about on this site through the Amazon links I provide, I get back a (very) small percentage of the sale back from Amazon.  Not only will you be helping the artists featured on the site, you’ll be helping the site as well.  This site is ad free, and I have never made one cent from it in the two-plus years I’ve been running it.  The problem with that is that I put a lot of time into things here and I have to pay a hosting fee every month for the mp3 files.  It adds up.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to all of the sudden start adding link after link or change anything on the site.  The Amazon search box in the sidebar will be the only real change.  Please feel free to use it for your Amazon shopping if you like.

I did notice today, however, that several of the albums I’m considering for my Best of 2010 list are currently available as $5.00 digital downloads from Amazon during the month of October.

If you’d like to get a leg up on the 2010 list and help out the site as well, please take a moment to download a couple of these albums.


You can find the full list of $5.00 albums here.

Random Weekend Post: New She & Him

Posted in She and Him on March 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The newest project from actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward is set to be released March 23rd. It will be the second release from the duo that call themselves She & Him and is fittingly titled Volume Two. You may remember how much I liked Volume One.

This is the video for the first single from the new album, and it already has me smiling. The bouncy retro innocence that I found so captivating on the debut release still seems to be present here, and the visuals match the sound. I love how Ward’s cool aloofness contrasts with Deschanel’s playfulness.
This is “In the Sun” by She & Him.

Links and Notes for 01/04/09

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M., She and Him on January 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

* The two people you see pictured above are actress/musician Zooey Deschanel from the duo She & Him and Ben Gibbard from the band Death Cab for Cutie. They got engaged last week. Normally I don’t really care about celeb gossip, but Deschanel was largely responsible for one of my favorite releases of 2008, and Gibbard fronts one of my favorite bands.

I just hope that this happy news will lead to Gibbard actually writing some music in the new year that doesn’t make me want to kill myself. I love Death Cab for Cutie, but their music ranks among the most depressing I have ever heard. It stands in stark contrast with the sweet sounds of She & Him. Here’s wishing these two kids the best.

* In case you don’t trust my judgement, a twelve member panel of Austin music critics has named Alejandro Escovedo’s Real Animal as the Album of the Year for 2008. Escovedo also was tabbed as Best Live Act, and “Sister Lost Soul” and “Always a Friend” tied for Song of the Year honors. Earlier this week, I pegged Real Animal as my favorite release of ’08.

Author Stephen King, always a vocal advocate for Americana artists, also placed Alejandro in his best of list for the year. James McMurtry is in there as well.

* You may have caught this link in the post dealing with Tift Merritt as one my Top 10 posts… but I’m going to throw it up again. The Americana Music Association has released its list of The Top 100 Albums of 2008. The list is based on radio airplay from November 19, 2007 to November 10, 2008 (albums did not have to be released in . Each week several reporting radio stations, specialty shows and internet and satellite radio stations from all over the country report their playlists to the AMA.

This list is unique because it tracks album airplay instead of singles airplay. Anytime a song (any song) is played from an album, it counts as one spin. The AMA tallies the spins each week and posts the chart on their website at It’s a great way to keep up with new and current Americana releases.

This year’s Top 10 Albums for radio airplay according to the AMA Chart:
10. Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo
09. Dirt Farmerby Levon Helm
08. Band of Heathens by Band of Heathens
07. Same Old Man by John Hiatt
06. Mescalito by Ryan Bingham
05. Another Country by Tift Merritt
04. Washington Square Serenade by Steve Earle
03. Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
02. Just Us Kids by James McMurtry
01. Trouble in Mind by Hayes Carll

* Some good stuff went on over at Star Maker Machine this past week. The theme was “In Memoriam,” and we posted music from artists who passed away in 2008. I posted on LeRoi Moore of The Dave Matthews Band and Chris Gaffney of The Hacienda Brothers.

* Anyone who reads this space regularly knows that I love two things… R.E.M. and birthday posts. Today I get to combine the two again and wish a very happy birthday to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who turns 49 today.

Stipe began his career as the shy, unassuming singer who mumbled his lyrics and hid his face behind his long hair. He eventually embraced his fame, and now, Michael Stipe is the face of R.E.M., the face of any number of political and social movements, and the face of American Alternative Rock music for an entire generation. Hard to believe he’s been at it for over 25 years now.

Here are a few R.E.M. b-sides for your listening pleasure… links go to R.E.M. web store.

R.E.M.: Dark Globe (Buy Album)
R.E.M.: Fretless (Buy Album)

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

Posted in She and Him, Top 10 of '08 on December 24, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

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)