Let’s hope Santa fills She & Him’s stockings with cheer this Christmas—from the sounds of this album, they sure need some.
One would expect a band that releases a Christmas album before most people have finished putting up their Halloween decorations would have a certain fondness for the holiday and celebrate with a certain amount of cheer.
Yet, “A Very She & Him Christmas” is the band’s dreariest and most mournful sounding album to date.
Granted, Zooey Deschanel (the “She” of the band) is known for being the somber girl. It’s the character she plays in almost every film she stars—from the tough Summer who doesn’t believe in love in “500 Days of Summer” to the tough Jovie who discredits the loveliness of her voice in “Elf.” Her fans love it about her acting, but carrying that bleak attitude over to a Christmas album may be asking too much even from dedicated followers.
Consisting of 12 tunes, from the traditional “Silver Bells” and “The Christmas Song,” to others made famous by Elvis and The Beach Boys, She & Him offer no new songs for the season or even new renditions of hymns celebrating Christ. They do give a new perspective to these classics—though some takes are more successful than others.
Songs like “Silver Bells” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” suit Deschanel’s somber style exceptionally well. The natural lightness and hint of jazz in her voice bring a sweet touch to these already leisurely songs.
“Sleigh Ride” is surprisingly delightful. Cute and light over upbeat drums, Deschanel’s quirkiness shines through, giving the tune charm.
However, the band often goes overboard with trying to imprint familiar tunes with their own style.
“Blue Christmas,” made famous by Elvis, is just painfully covered by the group. With country-twanging strings and Deschanel crooning notes clearly too low for her vocal range, it makes the listener feel more uncomfortable than blue.
“Little Saint Nick” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” are both overdone. Each opening with a chorus of Deschanel voice recorded to form their chords, the songs get even cheesier from there.
Unable to capture the fun and life of The Beach Boys, She & Him throws a ukulele into the background of “Little Saint Nick” to get the point across. In “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Deschanel decides that rather than make her voice more upbeat, she’ll just staccato. It ends up sounding like hiccups.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” might be the most disappointing song on the album. Anyone who has seen “Elf” will remember how lovely Deschanel’s voice first sounded in that famous locker room scene, but unfortunately, the charm is missing in her duet with Him. In a role-reversal (which, admittedly, was clever on the band’s part), she becomes the one trying to convince him to stay a little longer. Letting Matthew Ward (the lesser-known “Him” of the band) sing the lead is sure to leave fans feeling somewhat denied.
“A Very She & Him Christmas,” although containing a few solid tracks, reveals some deeper issues the band needs to work out before moving forward. Should Deschanel stick to the jazzy sound she has already mastered, or keep working on cleaning up the folksy twang that’s become so popular? And just how much will listeners allow Ward to sing lead before skipping to the next track?
Maybe the album is coming at a good time—with a new year, perhaps we’ll hear a new “She & Him”—one that knows the answers to these questions.