She & Him
A Very She & Him Christmas
By Al Kaufman
Kind of like in Rilo Kiley, when Blake Sennett barely got a word in edgewise against the more engaging Jenny Lewis, so it is that M. Ward scarcely shows up on this Zooey Deschanel showcase. The pair have made a couple of fine pop CDs, mixing Ward’s gruff aloofness with Deschanel’s endearing cuteness. They were some nice ear candy that people started treating like substantive meals. Unlike Scarlett Johansson, who people said could sing well “for an actress,” people were gushing at just how well Deschanel could sing, period.
Truth is, Deschanel just doesn’t have the lilt to add anything new to many of the Christmas standards. Songs such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” (performed here in Conan O’Brien’s dressing room) “Blue Christmas,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” do not necessarily fall flat, but do not contain any spark either. Ward’s scratchy vocals do not even make an appearance until track five, the too-cool “Christmas Wish.” His sparse contributions cannot save the dead-on-arrival “Sleigh Ride.” Deschanel pulls out her ukulele for “Silver Bells,” yet it still feels like too straight of a reading.
She and Him play a nice role reversal on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” in which Ward plays the one trying to leave and Deschanel tries to liquor him up so she can have her way with him. With the whistling and Jim Keltner’s tight drums, it offers the right amount of camp and fun that is missing from the rest of this CD. I mean, is the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” such a highly respected carol that it is not open to new interpretations? She and Him practically recreate the original here (ukulele not withstanding), right down to the harmonies.
This is pleasant enough tree trimming, egg nog drinking, fire sitting music. It is nothing more than that. That’s too bad. It could have been.