Zooey Deschanel is nothing if not an old soul. The adorable sitcom darling has always had an uncanny ability to make us fall in love with her charming, vintage inclinations and her love of music has never been far behind. From playing the record-loving free spirit in Almost Famous to her delightful Sugar Town rendition in 500 Days of Summer, Deschanel’s latest work may now be a case of life imitating art. Her kitschy, indie-pop duo She & Him, in which she stands alongside fellow muso M. Ward, have released Classics, an album that is so perfectly suited to them it was really only a matter of time.
Classics is the fifth studio album from She & Him, and their first under new label, Columbia. While perhaps not as quirky as their originals, the selection of songs on this track list almost sound like they were written for She & Him, rather than sought out by them. It’s not often you listen to a new version of a song that feels like it physically transports you back to the time the original was written, as that’s often not the artists intention. She & Him however have managed to take us back in time to juke boxes, malt shops and romantic black and white movies, in a delightful and respectful effort that pays homage to times gone by rather than trying to refresh them.
The songs sound like they sang Zooey Deschanel into life, and none more so than She. The lovely star could have been the muse for this timeless Aznavour/Elvis Costello classic that pulled at my heartstrings and brought tears to my eyes. Ward is the featured vocalist on this one, his husky tones usually saved for a more supportive role to Deschanel’s lead. He takes centre stage here though, and the result is truly beautiful. The horns are stunning and Deschanel’s contribution is the delicious cherry on top of this musical sundae.
And this is just the start of the She & Him retro treats. From the crooning, romantic feel to opening track Stars Fell On Alabama to the cutesy little Teach Me Tonight, the album is like a lovely tour through history, with just enough variation to keep things interesting. There’s the rattling, up-tempo Oh No, Not My Baby and the dreamy It’s Always You. The whistle and hum in Would You Like To Take A Walk and the big orchestral sound to It’s Not For Me To Say. Covering the likes of Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Dusty Springfield is no simple feat, but She & Him approach it so carefully that the result is subtle and wonderful.
This type of music may not be to everyone’s taste, but to sound a little silly – if you like it you will love it. While it’s not my personal choice in terms of genre, it triggered my sense memory in a way that had me hearing my grandma singing from the kitchen and watching handsome men slow dancing with ladies in old movies. The combination of Deschanel and Ward is spectacular, both contrasting and complimenting perfectly. It struck a chord in a quiet, understated way that made me appreciate a style I hadn’t paid too much attention to. I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong time, and that is certainly true of Zooey Deschanel. And seeing as though she hasn’t called me to hang out just yet, listening to Classics might be the next best thing.