She & Him’s Early Christmas

Courtesy of Merge Records

Merry Christmas, everyone! Yeah, it’s barely November, but the fact that Christmas is nearly two months away didn’t stop the power indie-folk duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward from releasing a Christmas album in late October. Could it be? What can we expect from this album? Perhaps a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” a la Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel’s version in 2003’s holiday flick, “Elf”?

Unfortunately, “A Very She & Him Christmas” is not at all a reincarnation of Buddy and Jovie’s shower scene, but rather a distinctly She & Him version of most of our favorite Christmas songs. The wonderfully cute yet somewhat more mature voice of Zooey Deschanel covers most of the classic Christmas songs on the album, instantly getting us in the mood for one of the greatest holidays of the year (even without the use of a single sleigh bell).

The album cover features a slick M. Ward and a curled and coifed, bow hairpin-adorned Zooey Deschanel against a backdrop of lush red curtain. The polished look of both of them, without any glaringly obvious hints that this is a Christmas album, gives us the sense that we can expect something different from these Christmas songs, something more mature than other holiday tunes, fittingly suited for an older and more subdued audience.

The album begins its descent into a different kind of Christmas sound with the very first track, “The Christmas Song,” which is filled with the saccharine voice of Zooey Deschanel overlapping with a soothing strut of guitars by M. Ward. Instantly, those warm fuzzies of Christmas cheer begin to brew in your holiday-deprived heart and you can’t help but long for December.

She & Him’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” begins with M. Ward quietly muttering his tempo count followed by a soft and bluesy guitar introduction which makes us feel like we’re listening to Christmas tunes in a dark and smoky club rather than being curled up in front of a fireplace with some hot cocoa. Deschanel’s voice, noticeably lower and somewhat huskier, croons the lyrics to this classic yuletide song. The She & Him version is a much sexier version of this Christmas classic, with its soft and subtle rhythm and Deschanel’s melodic voice.

“Christmas Wish” features mostly M. Ward singing about his Christmas wish while Deschanel backs him up, a noticeable change in the group dynamic. Ward’s voice is easy to listen to and sounds effortless, especially when coupled with his airy guitar riffs. M. Ward’s skills on the guitar really stand out on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as Deschanel belts out this classic tune to accompany the complicated guitar riffs that one wouldn’t expect to come from this song.

One of the most beloved of all holiday tunes, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is turned into an underwhelming version of this favorite. The duo tries to hard make their own version of the song, but Deschanel’s voice sounds uncomfortable as she chants the lyrics and M. Ward’s guitar strums away with an awkward tune.

Much to my despair, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” failed to live up my dream of a reinvented version with M. Ward rather than Will Ferrell. Instead, She & Him turn it into a cross between a country song and a Christmas song, but the lyrics end up sounding too fast-paced, almost as if Deschanel’s voice was sped up for the song.

“A Very She & Him Christmas” is a pretty good piece of work to get us in the Christmas spirit, but it fails to be the catchy, Christmas-y and joyous album that one would come to expect from these two. Rather than including upbeat and jingly tunes, She & Him tone themselves down a bit for this Christmas album, keeping sleigh bells off the album but managing to spotlight guitar and the slightest tinge of percussion, truly letting their voices get the Christmas spirit going.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5