She & Him just cannot get with the times. Their music has always contained a decidedly retro vibe. Zooey Deschanel’s voice sounds straight out of the 40s, and M. Ward’s guitar sound harkens back to decades of jazz and rock n’ roll playing. The duo’s tunes sound right at home alongside the pop and jazz music that inspired them. The band’s latest album “Classics” goes straight to the source, made up of covers of classic songs from bygone eras. The album was recorded live with a 20-piece orchestra composed of brass, strings, bass, flute and drums.
This album does not break new ground for the band by any means, but that is not exactly what this album is supposed to do. “Classics” is chock full of sleepy 60’s tunes with light percussion, subtle guitar solos and soft vocals. The strings and warm tones of this album would make these songs sound right at home in an indie romance film.
Deschanel’s charming vocals and classic love songs are a match made in heaven, and the mixing on this vintage record is superb. The album kicks off with a cover of the 1934 Frank Perkins jazz standard “Stars Fell On Alabama,” a perfect sample of the tracks to come. It becomes easy to imagine the song coming from a 1930’s phonograph turntable or from the speakers of an old radio. The tone of this album serves as a sonic time machine, painting pictures of young couples on dates and old school dancing halls. They make music lovers long for a time of beautiful and meaningful pop songs, not brain dead nightclub thrashers.
The best moments on “Classics” are when Ward and Deschanel sing together. Their voices have a Simon and Garfunkel quality to them. They intermingle and compliment each other wonderfully.
The duo does not simply regurgitate these songs as originally recorded. Songs like the haunting “Unchained Melody” and the poppy “This Girl’s In Love With You” have a distinctly She & Him feel to them.
If this album has any downside, it is that it feels somewhat inessential. The songs, although top quality, do not feel like anything fresh for the band. They all have similar arrangements and tones and feel vaguely familiar. These factors make the album seem much more worth a stream on Spotify than they do a vinyl purchase.