Zooey Deschanel isn’t the first actress to try singing, yet with her first album she has seemingly already been thrust into rock stardom as indie’s newest idol. But she gets most of the attention with Volume One, which is actually a collaborative effort with Portland, Oregon-based M. Ward. Ward is no slouch by any means, but one doesn’t have to think hard about why the group name She & Him refers to her first and him second.
I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but Deschanel sounds as cute as she looks. When she’s singing her Joanna Newsom-esque lullabies in “Sentimental Heart” or her Loretta Lynn opry serenades in “Change Is Hard” or her Nicole Atkins-like delusions in “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today,” it’s hard not to want to give her a great big teddy bear hug.
On first listen, She & Him appears to be on a roller coaster with every song represented by a different bump on the way down. Subsequent listens reveal the duo to be on more of a carousel, with every song represented by a different animal on the ride. That’s not to say that the album is repetitive, but more to characterize the album as the feelings you have and the memories you get while on the merry-go-round.
It seems more obvious with the lighthearted tracks like “Why Don’t You Let Me Stay Here” (download mp3 here) and the 50s jukebox tune “I Was Made For You.” It would be easy to depict the ballads as nostalgic, but it goes deeper with “Change Is Hard” or the surprisingly depressing “Take It Back” in that momentarily realization that the carousel is just a temporary daydream and that stepping off would subject you once again to reality and all of its setbacks and heartbreaks.
But then again that’s life. Having a true life is experiencing the joyous occasions and the miserable nights together, which explains the juxtaposition of the minimalist duet “You Really Got A Hold On Me” and the somewhat uplifting “Black Hole” (and yes, I see the irony).
There is remarkable range on Volume One that blends an afternoon of youthful innocence, a summer of southern living, a lifetime of feminine attitude, and an eternity of lost hopes and fulfilled dreams in a compact, yet satisfying 12 tracks.