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5/29/2008

she & him (and more)

[photo courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio]

When I say a CD is "in constant rotation," normally that's a figure of speech. I mean, who actually plays an album 24-7? I don't (you gotta sleep sometime), but I've come very close with Volume One by She & Him.

After we watched Juno the other night, I poked around iTunes, looking up the soundtrack information (namely that Kinks song). As I did so, I saw She & Him somewhere, and I remembered reading (in Paste) that actress Zooey Deschanel was one of the band members. Johnny and I liked her in Tin Man, but that didn't mean she could sing. I was skeptical.

I was also curious, though. Zooey seems genuine and charming, and I heard she sang amazingly well in Elf (from reliable sources). So, I sampled a few She & Him songs on iTunes, checked out their web site, made a purchase, and now during waking hours, I cannot quit playing Volume One.

I'd be remiss if I didn't quickly mention that the "him" of She & Him is M. Ward. I'm not familiar with his solo efforts yet, but I will be soon. I've heard his name here and there in very positive lights - he's played with the likes of Neko Case, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Beth Orton, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and Jenny Lewis. And, he produced and played on She & Him's Volume One. His own CDs have to be good.

In answer to my question, Zooey Deschanel can sing. Oh, my, can she ever. For the time being, you can stream each full-length song from Volume One right here. Take a listen to the cover of one of my favorite oldies, Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got a Hold on Me." Or how she channels Ronnie Spector on the girl group-esque "I Was Made For You" (one of my favorites on the album; Zooey wrote that song). Or another of her own songs, the lovely country ballad "Got Me." Very Patsy Cline (a compliment in the Simmons' home).

It's actually difficult to pin down the genre of Volume One, and that's one of the reasons I love She & Him so much. It contains enough of a nod to the 60's to make Johnny and I miss American Dreams something fierce. Did I mention Zooey co-wrote another such song with the hilarious Jason Schwartzman (of Rushmore and Coconut Records fame)? That would be "Sweet Darlin'."

But then, of course, there's country, nods to jazz and Ella Fitzgerald, and a sultry-Hawaiian duet-cover of The Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better." She & Him pull off this eclecticism because Zooey's own songs are fantastic, and their combined talents on cover songs leave you breathless.

I hear they're already planning a Volume Two, and I pray to God it includes the cover of Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town." Whatever you do, click here for a poorly-shot video, but you can hear Zooey belt out that song just fine.

I love how they've released old-fashioned songs in very modern times. Not just old-fashioned, but really good songs they make their own. There's a lot of great, new music these days, but on the other hand, there's lots of dreck. I feel like She & Him have breathed new life into the music scene while paying tribute to their heroes. I read Zooey was shy about her songs, but M. Ward was blown away. I can see why.

I discovered even more musical inspiration. Emmylou Harris will release a new album in June - All I Intended to Be. There's another classy lady who knows how to both write and cover songs, and sing with perfection.

I'm excited about Sigur Rós' new album - með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (translated into English: "with a buzz in our ears we play endlessly") - in June, too, but I'm not as excited about the partial nudity on the cover. This wouldn't bug me so much except they've released a free video featuring full-on nudity. I'm sensing a theme of false freedom. However, you can download a free mp3 - "Gobbledigook" - from their upcoming album. It is great, as they always are. And I'm officially making a note-to-self: buy Katie Herzig's CDs already!

But I want to know - is Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers any good? This reminds me - I've been meaning to familiarize myself with the great Tom Waits for the longest time. I know, I know - I'm sadly late. Please forgive me and recommend the best Tom Waits album to start out with. I'm desperate for your suggestions.

Other than She & Him, I'm head over heels in love with rooibos tea. Apparently, it's pretty healthy, too. I finished off my sample tin of rooibos almond in record time, and I'm running low on paper tea filters, so I placed a lil' adagio order yesterday:

-4 oz. tin of rooibos almond.
-4 oz. tin of Wedding Cake - vanilla black, almond black, and strawberry - a custom blend by Tanya Laird. How could I not?
-sample tin of rooibos orange.
-sample tin of almond black.
-box of paper tea filters.

As for this morning, I mixed Assam Harmony + a little Irish Breakfast together, and listened to Zooey & M. Ward again. And I added All the Real Girls to our Netflix queue - literally everyone I know tells me it's a great movie.

My brother said he's smitten with Zooey Deschanel, but he doesn't like the spelling of her name. Just so you know, she's named after a character in the J.D. Salinger novel, Franny and Zooey, which is on my to-read list. It was on that list before my addiction to She & Him, for your information. I first heard about Franny and Zooey when I interviewed Lori Chaffer (of Waterdeep fame - one of my favorite bands). She said the book "is required reading for every artist - must be, must be." I trust her advice.

P.S. - [to my friends in Nashville, She & Him will be at Mercy Lounge on July 30th. I think you should go. I might send Mucky Duck a few e-mails - Zooey & M. Ward would be a shoe-in.]

6 comments:

kate o. said...

my fingers waltzed over to itunes last night and bought this. thanks for the recommendation! it really is great. i'm a m.ward fan and yes, zooey's voice was beautiful in elf.

and i think the "wedding cake" tea sounds quite fun.

jenni said...

Oh, good! Hey, which M. Ward album should I buy first?

nicole said...

you should read franny & zooey! I put it back on the shelf after a few days of reading, but I need to get back to it, too. xox

jenni said...

I plan to, and I might even own a copy - I need to go look. If not, there's always the trusty library.

kate o. said...

at the moment i only have m.ward's "post-war." excellent.

jenni said...

Thanks, Kate! I will check out Post-War soon.