Monday, August 11, 2008

Volume 1 - She And Him

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Well if Scarlett Johannson can do it, why can't Zooey Deschanel, teaming up with singer-songwriter M. Ward, have a go as well? But whereas Scarlett went for an album largely based on cover versions, only three of the tracks on Volume 1 are covers (and one of those is the hidden track Swing Low, Sweet Chariot).

And, ahem, covering them first would give you a distorted view of the album as a whole. You Really Got a Hold on Me is superfluous at best and whilst the cover of the Beatles I Should've Known Better has some merit, it does come perilously close to pastiche and/or novelty. Luckily the majority of the self-penned tracks are a hell of a lot better.

The vibe is something akin to 60's pop (provided by Deschanel's melodies and lyrics) meets 50's Nashville (provided by Ward's arrangements) with a little bit of folk added in for good measure. Any notions that this is some form of vanity project from the actress is quickly dispelled by the realisation that she can sing (having already proved it to some degree in films, even if most people would remember her singing alongside Will "I'll say the name of my character over and over again because it's so hilarious" Ferrell in Elf) AND has a voice that can fit a number of styles. She can croon on Take It Back just as well as she can be playful on I Was Made For You. Mind you, would you expect anything less from an actress?

For all the positives, I can't say that I find the album a complete knock out; it's a little too slow paced, with faster, more upbeat tracks like This Is Not A Test tending to prove more memorable (a fact not helped by the fact that most of these tracks are at the beginning of the album) and where it's most obvious modern point of reference for comparison, Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat had a heart and a soul, Deschanel's lyrics do tend to verge on cliche at times.

Still, it's a strong debut album which certainly leaves you hoping that you will get to hear a Volume 2, with the hope that more pieces of the puzzle may just fall into place next time around.

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