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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Album Review: She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas

This festive offering from She & Him is a pared back production featuring quiet acoustics and warbling melodies. A thoughtfully arranged collection of Christmas covers, it's sure to keep you humming through the holiday season.

Written by Caitlin Sinclair

She & Him by HoBoJoBo
She & Him by HoBoJoBo.

Generally the realm of fluffy instrumentals and cheesy lyrics, it’s hard to take a Christmas album too seriously. But the joy of A Very She & Him Christmas is that Zooey Deschanel (She) and M. Ward (Him) contribute knowingly to an escapist genre and this is obvious right from the getgo. The album’s cover photography features hilarious shots of the duo in matching Yuletide get-up, complete with Santa hats, tartan prints, and a toy reindeer. It’s also worth noting that Ward first discovered Deschanel after hearing her sing on the 2003 comedy Elf.

She & Him by Barb Royal
She & Him by Barb Royal.

M. Ward puts She & Him’s music in context on their website: ‘I believe good production should be like a good photograph, which is a great contrast between dark and light… Somehow it all evens out, creating this perfect picture of life. Because life is not always sunny, it’s not always dark—it’s somewhere in between.’ And so it is that the album’s smiley lyrics are sometimes complemented by skeletal accompaniments or underscored by minor keys, making this a somewhat darker addition to the musical Christmas family.

She & Him by Autumn de Wilde
The Christmas Waltz is the opening track, a gentle number with delicate acoustic guitar, piano and vocals. It’s a whimsical entrance that signals a sparser sound compared with the duo’s earlier albums, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (read Ian Steadman’s lovely Volume 2 review for Amelia’s Magazine here).

Christmas Waltz

What hasn’t changed is the influence 1950s and 60s pop music has had on the pair, and their cover of the Beach Boys’ Christmas Day is an excellent example, where catchy guitar solos and multilayered backing vocals abound.

She & Him by Barb Royal
She & Him by Barb Royal.

The interesting bass line and arpeggiated chords of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, coupled with even more applaudable backing vocals make this feel like one of the most sincere songs on the album, while the sleigh bells and lovely rising outro of I’ll be Home for Christmas formed an upbeat reinterpretation of the classic tune.

She & Him by Autumn de Wilde
She & Him by Autumn de Wilde.

Christmas Wish is where your ears will really perk up though, as you hear the contrast between M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel’s voices. His is gravely and hers has an edgy timbre—combined, the result is magic. Again on Baby, It’s Cold Outside, the whistling, and effortless call and response between the duo make the track sound like it’s born from two people who are musically perfectly attuned to one another. My personal favourite is Silver Bells, stripped back to vocals and a simple ukulele strum, which draws our attention to the lyrics and the pauses between phrases.

Little Saint Nick, whose lyrics can irritate even the most avid Christmas carol lover, takes the Beach Boys influence to further glorious heights with gorgeous vocal harmonies, inspired key changes and a beat contagious enough to have you singing along in a West Coast frame of mind. A Very She & Him Christmas paints a quirky picture in darkness and light, and I’d recommend it for anyone in need of a winter pick-me-up: out now on Domino Records.

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