She & Him, one of the most talked about music collaborations, born out of a shower scene in Elf no less, have decided as their third official record to cover some of the most memorable Christmas songs of all time. So, you’ve now read the tin and you know what it does, do you still want to buy it?
To a fair few vocalist Zooey Daschenel is a living Goddess; with one man telling me he’d willingly father her children (as in literally carry them within his own body), whilst others recoil at the sound of her name, forming the 50s inspired twee icon within the flames of their minds before the ‘nel’ even hits their eardrums. Her presence within Hollywood has always caused conflict with the supposed indie sensibilities of the music, so this marriage to the height of commercialism has naturally sparked divide in the critical community. Some have seen this as a revival of the Christmas tradition, which by now has hit retro status, whilst others decry it along with its early release date as just more of what we don’t need. I meanwhile like to take the appropriate approach: as if I’m about to go on my annual ice fishing trip with a copy of the record a friend lent me, his recommendation “oh you’ll like this band, it’s got that girl who was in that film with that guy I don’t like” i.e. no prior knowledge.
It’s a good approach as it allows you to enjoy the luscious joy that’s both the filling and coating of songs heard all too often, reinterpreted with the simplistic duplicity of Dachenel’s refined and buttery pipes and guitarist and producer Matt Ward’s padded and subdued guitar. First two tracks ‘Christmas Waltz’ and ‘Christmas day’ are an unsurprising delight, namely delighting without much surprise. Zooey’s singing enthusiasm matches her penchant for dynamic acting (so none basically), but the superb blend of fleeting uplifts in the latter song starts to win you over into the record’s goal as the modern benchmark for Christmas renditions.
After a fairly standard ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ Matt Ward joins the carol party with his rough and defined larynx, which does well to cement this is a collection that stays laid back, not overdoing the overdramatic as many an X-factor contestant. It’s a shame that his knack for song-writing couldn’t have brought about at least one original track to bring the cheese filled lyrics we’ve all heard time and time again up to date, or to douse the disinterest brought about by ‘Sleigh Ride’ or ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’. ‘Silver Bells’ has the aura of a ‘Juno: the Christmas edition’ theme, but the real winner of the record has to be ‘Baby, Its Cold Outside’, the much begged for duet that takes everything good about this album and covers it in chocolate buttons, which, when mixed with ‘Blue Christmas’ redefines the word Grinch to Christmas non-believer, and demands we roast them with the marshmallows.
Everyone’s got their likes and dislikes with Christmas, and oddly music comes under both flags. I’ve always enjoyed songs that do things differently, enjoying previous anthems by Sufjan Stevens and Pomplamoose, and though every part of me should reject this, the honesty within harks back to those few but memorable things we actually like about this time of year. Including eggnog.
Words > Graham Ashton