She & Him

Volume One (Merge)

Phases & Stages

She & Him

Volume One (Merge)

With M. Ward playing Lee Hazlewood to Zooey Deschanel's Nancy Sinatra, the indie-folk mainstay's production plying retro-AM arrangements behind the actress' surprisingly powerful voice, the pair's debut exudes a breezy pop and twang both seductive and naive. Contemporary touchstones skip between April March and Jenny Lewis – the Hollywood pep talk of "This Is Not a Test" recalling the latter – while drifting through girl-group harmonies ("I Was Made for You"), sultry jazz ("Take It Back"), and Melanie-esque innuendo ("Black Hole," "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"). All smack irresistibly nostalgic. Deschanel's voice inhabits so many chanteuses that she never reveals her own, save perhaps for unadorned closer "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," and at times even threatens a theatrical kitsch (especially the Hawaiian-cowpoke arrangement of the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better"), but Volume One is utterly enveloping in its charm.

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