By Melanie Bethune, January 8 2015 —
She & Him, with Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, is a band usually associated with lightness and ease.
Their first three albums, fittingly titled Volumes 1-3, encapsulate the sort of music you’d listen to while riding a bicycle through a meadow filled with bunnies and chirping birds. Their latest album, Classics, takes us to what many would call happier days. It maintains the band’s characteristic sense of ease, while bringing a darker, richer and almost sexual slyness.
The album has 13 covers of classic songs — everything from “We’ll Meet Again” to “Unchained Melody” — recorded with a live 20-piece orchestra. The fullness of the orchestra shines through, infusing each track with a richness meant to bring the listener back to the decades when these tracks were first released. This background is highlighted on tracks such as “It’s Not For Me To Say,” where Deschanel’s lilting vocals are cut by an intermissive horn solo amidst swelling and ebbing string arrangements.
Towards the middle of the album the duo return to their roots. The playful track “Stay Awhile” integrates an orchestral horn solo with soft swing and airiness.
Ward’s voice doesn’t make an appearance until the fifth track, but his production and instrumental influence is heard throughout the album. He takes the forefront on “She,” a track that shows the shift Deschanel and Ward bring with them to Classics. Their sound has grown up and become less about the light-hearted pursuit of happiness and more about the pleasures of a musical relationship.
Ward and Deschanel have built up a musical marriage that seems to be plucked straight from the golden age of the classics and at this rate, we’ll surely meet them again some sunny day.