She & Him’s latest effort, Classics, does exactly what it says on the tin: it gives the listener a chance to – once again – air a selection of classic, timeless songs.
Deschanel’s soporific vocal style is evocative of the sheek, black and white cinematography of the twentieth century. The sound of this record is classic, stylish and perhaps even foreign to younger fans of the pair, who have grown up with colourful HD surround-sound TV. To older fans, perhaps this sound is less admirable. They’ve seen and heard it all before.
She & Him are not the first artist to do a covers album, but their method of production certainly needs to be given merit. The album was recorded live, with the spontaneity ensuring that Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were able to capture the “spirit of the songs in their truest forms”. The arrangement the listener receives from the comfort of their home is in fact the product of a 20-piece orchestra, and the attention to detail certainly pays off in ‘This Girl’s In Love With You’.
The petite, doll-like Zooey Deschanel does an admirable effort of bringing something new to Sinatra’s ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’. It’s certain that a feminine twist to conventionally male tracks is refreshing, especially as these songs are products of a year that has seen women accomplish great things – from Emma Watson’s UN address on feminism, to Malala Yousafzai receiving the Nobel Peace prize. Yet Deschanel’s feminine charm fails to bring anything new to Dusty Springfield’s ‘Stay Awhile’ or Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Would You Like To Take A Walk?’. She pales next to the women who did it so incredibly well before she was even born. If it ain’t broke, Zooey, don’t fix it.
This is easy listening in a thirty-nine minute bundle of audio but is lacking the distinctive, baritone crooning from Sinatra and the British charm of The Forces’ sweetheart, Vera Lynn. Ward’s contribution is admirable but in no way is he up there with the jazz icons of the Twentieth century. Nor is that the case for Zooey Deschanel. If the duo got up and performed any of these songs at a karaoke night they would be met with a polite smattering of applause. She & Him can sing, and it would be harsh to say that with Classics they have murdered a rich folio of musical history. However I don’t think I’m harsh in saying that She & Him fail to suggest that they have any longevity of their own, with their latest record.
Classics is released on 2nd December via Columbia Records.