“Together they tackle a few of the classics in a way Dean Martin might have done if he were just waking up from a coma.” – Not much festive cheer from Dara Higgins for She & Him‘s A Very She & Him Christmas.
The xmas album is an ephemeral thing. You’re unlikely to stick it on whilst sunning yourself on the deck, martini in hand, or planting your tulip bulbs, or sweeping up the first fall of the leaves. Unless you’re so cool, that’s just the kind of thing you’re very likely to do. That and wear a peaked cap and deck shoes and insist that everyone calls you “Skipper”. If that’s you, than you need to buy this record.
Zooey Deschanel is indie gold. Indie boys with scrawny beards and the hem of their jeans dragging off the ground behind them love her, hipster chaps with skinny ties and lurid cardigans drool after her in moments of heterosexuality. And why not, she’s a talented lass with thoroughly modern hair, a CV of indifferent mainstream movies, one of equally irritating American indie dross and a kookily spelled name. Add to that her music combo and you have the modern renaissance woman. The new Minnie Driver, the au courant Milla Jovovich. You kind of think that if you met her, perhaps in a an airport, or queuing at the health food shop for some quinoa, that you’d stand a chance if you just got to talk to her, because she likes quirky, normal, pretty ugly guys, doesn’t she? Yeah? No?
There’s nothing new or interesting here. It’s all sweet and fine, and it can meld into the background hum as you attempt to stave off the incipient depression of dealing with your awful family during the “holidays”. Zooey has a nice voice, a bit like Karen Carpenter after a couple of burgers. This record is her and M. Ward’s paean to a chilled out, slightly ironic Christmas of argyle socks, open fires and Rockwell-esque banality. A Christmas of terrible jumpers emblazoned with reindeer worn with impunity. It’s a slow, sweet record, of simple picking and naked vocals, occasionally embellished with the stick talents of drum whore Jim Keltner. Together they tackle a few of the classics in a way Dean Martin might have done if he were just waking up from a coma. Everything sounds a bit like it was tossed off in one afternoon, scrubbed up with a little reverb, and, in the greatest tradition of Christmas songs, it grates after not too long. Which is fine, because, after all, you’re not going to listen to this album more than a couple of times, and then only as background music as you wear a novelty paper hat and mix festive drinks and tell all your friends how you prefer the alternative versions to the standards because Bing Crosby was a racist, and you just know that if you met Zooey, say at the vet’s getting your terrapins neutered, or at a Kimya Dawson gig, and you got to talk to her, you’d stand a chance, because she likes fuzzy chinned, idea-free, Bermuda shirt wearing geeks.
It’s hard to get past the explicitly commercial nature of the Christmas song, a tune dedicated to one tiny part of the year, lyrically irrelevant not just for 11 months of any given calendar, but any part of the world that isn’t Judeo-Christian, and doesn’t happen to live in the northern hemisphere, where it’s actually cold during xmas. I’m sure there’s plethora of songs about surfing, barbies and getting a body wax in before the Big Man’s birthday released every single year in Australia. The great lost Heath Ledger album, perhaps. But we don’t have the sun, we have biting cold winds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, a couple of slabs of Praszky and Noddy fucking Holder, thank you very much. Unless of course you actually think that you could bump into her at that dance recital or boss-eyedness awareness fundraising bash and she’d give you the time of day because she likes clashing patterns, oversized eyewear and guys called Skipper. You’re probably right too. Go for it.