Songs like ‘Sentimental Heart’, a concerto for piano, strings and Pet Sounds haberdashery, suggest this pair are as natural a songwriting team as Karen and Richard.
Doe-eyed actress and journeyman musician make rather brilliant 60s-steeped debut
The She is actress Zooey Deschanel, the Him is Portland journeyman M. Ward. The pair were introduced by The Go-Getter director Martin Hynes, who asked them to collaborate on his film’s closing song. Thereafter they continued to swap files via email, Deschanel from LA, Ward from Oregon.
You wouldn’t know it. Volume One sounds like it was written in adjoining booths in the Brill building, crafted with oodles of love and truckloads of money in a New York studio the size of the Ritz, and served up fresh on the set of Grace Of My Heart.
Relax though, it’s an irony-free zone. You won’t find girly-pop beauties like ‘Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?’ and the adorable ‘I Was Made For You’ recontextualised by Lynch or Tarantino for some torrid retro-horror set-piece. They’re just too pure. Songs like ‘Sentimental Heart’, a concerto for piano, strings and Pet Sounds haberdashery, suggest this pair are as natural a songwriting team as Karen and Richard. Plus, Deschanel is a wily and agile vocal chameleon. She does Darlene Love on ‘Sweet Darlin’, Carole King on ‘This Is Not A Test’, Peggy Lee on ‘Take It Back’, Loretta Lynn on ‘Change Is Hard’ and Dusty Springfield on ‘I Thought I Saw Your Face Today’.
The secret is that none of this stuff comes across as self-conscious or pastiche-y (my main problem with Duffy’s record) but maintains a disarmingly unaffected air over a dozen tunes. Volume One could’ve been written and recorded at any point since 1965; gorgeous pop scores channelled through a Spectoresque mono-maniacal mix. In its way, it’s as perfect a period piece as A Girl Called Eddy’s debut. It’s also one of the most pleasurable listening experiences of the year.