Ah, the Christmas record. You probably had one growing up. I’m sure I did, but that memory has been wiped clean as what was once sugar to the ears as a child evolved into audio torture as an adolescent. This isn’t to say that Christmas albums are bad, they’re just an acquired taste. They also have the life-span of milk and if you drink too much, you’ll make yourself sick.
What Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have done here is simple and easily explained — assemble some of their favourite seasonal standards and perform them in their own warm and inimitable style. With such a wealth of tracks to choose from Deschanel and Ward have thankfully avoided going down the “Frosty The Snowman” route and balanced the album in an uncomplicated, old-timey way that recreates those Christmas albums of the 50’s and 60’s.
As She & Him, both Ward and Deschanel have established a musical style that borrows heavily from the same period as these songs, so their ability to effortless inhabit the world of Christmas’ past is unsurprising. Some obvious highlights are Deschanel’s tender reading of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, and Ward assuming lead vocals on “Christmas Wish” and his almost-there guitar solo on Brenda Lee’s “Rockin Around The Christmas Tree”, but it’s largely the warmth from Deschanel’s sitting-by-the-fireplace vocals that has any red-blooded male hanging off her every word.
Elf fans will have cause to rejoice as the memorable scene between Deschanel and Will Ferrell is played out again on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, with Deschanel swapping her original part and injecting a playful feistiness with a reluctant Ward. A perhaps mutual fondness for The Beach Boy’s 1964 Christmas Album is revealed as two tracks appear in “Christmas Day” and “Little Saint Nick”, and …. dear god, is there really any point talking about what these songs sound like? THEY SOUND LIKE CHRISTMAS. Look in your record collection. Do you see any Christmas albums? No? Well then here’s a safe, inoffensive place to start.
For neither of these talented artists to contribute original material here is a wasted opportunity. It would’ve been interesting to see what they’d come up with, but perhaps that is something for another time. What we have here is what it says on the box — A Very She & Him Christmas, and very it is. To be honest Christmas albums depress the hell out of me, and Ben Gibbard is the luckiest son of a bitch in the world. There, stick that in your stocking.