Archive for the ‘She & Him’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 4, 2019] A Very She & Him Christmas Party

S. and I have a large Christmas album collection.  It’s fun to add a CD a year or so, especially when they are new and interesting.

We’ve enjoyed the two Christmas CDs from She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward).  So when it was announced that they’d be coming to Philadelphia (actually starting their mini-tour here), I got tickets right away.

We went in with expectations of a sweet Christmas experience.  And that’s what we got.

They played about 30 songs and the biggest surprise for both of us was just how long the show was.  I assumed 75 minute, but it wound up being almost and hour and 45 minutes.  That’s the holiday spirit! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 4, 2019] Pete Lee

Exactly one year ago S. and I attended the Brian Wilson Christmas Special.  This year we were in Philly for the She and Him Christmas Party.  Clearly December 4 is the day for Christmas specials!

A few days before the show (we were the first stop on the tour) it was announced that comedian Pete Lee would be opening the East Coast dates while Patton Oswalt would be opening the West Coast dates.  (It’s not often that I wish I was on the West Coast, but this is one of those times).

I had never heard of Pete Lee. When I looked him up I saw this on his bio:

Pete Lee was the first stand-up comedian to get a standing ovation on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and it resulted in him appearing on the show three times in the last year.


That’s all I read before the show.  But looking at the bio after the show I see that it really does sum him up pretty well:

Pete’s joyful humor comes from his Midwestern roots. Raised in Janesville, WI by divorced parents and a 19-inch television, he was destined to pursue a career in entertainment.


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SOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-Christmas Party (2016).

The first She & Him Christmas album was a little flat, a little dull.  So I wasn’t that excited to get a new one.  But this one is so much more fun than the first.

Zooey Deschanel feels much looser and freer and the music is more lush and not so restrained.  It’s still not anything like the craziness that Zooey Deschanel is capable of. In fact, there’s a lot of restraint.  But some fun is certainly have, mostly as little asides.

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” starts the album and you can hear the big change.  There’s a choir singing behind her which sounds huge (in comparison) and Zooey puts a nice vibrato on her voice.  There’s drums and a bouncy beat.  This album feels very much alive compared to the first one.

“Let It Snow” slows things down.  But it’s and jazzy very appropriate to the song.

“Must Be Santa” is a silly fun track.  This one has accordion and a bouncy backing chorus.  Like in the Dylan version, they list the presidents along with the reindeer.  But it hurts a lot that after the first batch of presidents, they tack on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, which hurts a lot.

“Happy Holiday” has a pretty, echoey guitar and Zooey really shows off her voice nicely.

“Mele Kalikimaka” is a favorite Christmas song.  This version is a little delicate compared to the more rocking version, but it does capture a Hawaiian spirit.

“Christmas Memories” is a bit too slow for my liking but it is a pretty song.

“Run Run Rudolph” M sings lead.  This song is kinda dumb when you actually hear the words.  I’m surprised they didn’t upend gender stereotypes on this one like they did on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“Winter Wonderland” a duet with Jenny Lewis.  It’s fun to hear another voice with hers.  There’s a goofy moment where Jenny sings, “we can pretend he is Jerry Brown.”

“The Coldest Night of the Year” is a nice sweet duet.  When the chorus comes in with Ward in the backing vocals it sounds really great.

“A Marshmallow World” is perfect for her.  Fun and bouncey and surprisingly restrained for what it could have been.

“The Man with the Bag” is pretty and old-fashioned-sounding.  Zooey does this style very well.

“Christmas Don’t Be Late” This normally hyperactive song is almost like a dirge.  I don’t know why the excitement has been removed from it.  It’s a bummer way to end the record.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Eva”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story is really wonderful.  It’s sad and strange and powerful.

It opens with a man visiting “the hairy child” in Quetzalenango.  The girl is Eva.  Her mother hopes this man is a doctor.  But he is not.  He is a representative of Doña Teresa de Miraflor, a Cuban heiress who was setting up the Society of Scientific Knowledge in Havana. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSHE AND HIM-A Very She & Him Christmas (2011).

I don’t really know all that much about She & Him.  I know it’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.  I don’t really know M. Ward at all and I know Deschanel from New Girl (which we love) and because she is in Elf.

I loved how quirky and weird she was on New Girl and how she sang a lot (in the beginning).  She has a wonderful voice (as evidenced in Elf).  I assumed this would be a kind of quirky, retro-feeling Christmas album.

But it isn’t.  It’s not quirky at all.  The instrumentation is incredibly sparse, sometimes shockingly quiet.  Deschanel displays her voice well.  But the whole thing feels kind of stiff and tightly compressed.  It’s pretty but not really inviting.  Occasionally the album gets bigger with M. singing a few backing vocals and even a lead.

Most surprising is that I didn’t  even know the first two songs on the record.  I didn’t expect non-standards.

“Christmas Waltz” is her singing to quiet jazzy guitar.  It’s possible that since I don’t know the song, I feel like it didn’t set up the album well.
“Christmas Day” has her voice heavily echoed with even gentler guitar.  Although near the end of the song, the full backing vocal (all Zooey, I think) helps her out.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is finally a song I know and I feel like she does a great job of it with a smokey delivery.
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” also works very well, even if it’s kind of weird to have the jazzy acoustic guitar playing on this relatively emotional song.
“Christmas Wish” is a duet it feels incredibly loud compared to the earlier songs.  There’s even drums.  It’s just kind of surprising to hear M.’s voice five songs in.  I wish he had been introduced earlier.
“Sleigh Ride” also works pretty well.  The music is kind of countryish, but the two of them together make it work well.
“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” has piano and electric guitar and backing vocals.  It doesn’t really rock, but at least the guitar is electric.
“Silver Bells” is her on a ukulele and she accompanies herself perfectly.  It’s a bit spare, but the song is quite lovely.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is wonderful for the way it twists the gender roles.  But I feel like the song might be too fast–Zooey in particular seems kind of rushed singing it.
“Blue Christmas” is a song I don’t really like, but her version of just her and the acoustic guitar is very pretty.
“Little Saint Nick” brigs back the ukulele with lots of echo on her voice.  It’s bright and happy.
“The Christmas Song” is too slow and stiff and kind of a sad way to end the record.

This album is fine for a safe Christmas record.  It’s just not that inspired.

[READ: December 13, 2017] “Secondary Memory”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Some of the stories in this collection have been pretty dark, so I enjoyed the relative lightness of this one.  “Relative” because although it starts as kind of a funny anthropomorphized laptop story, there’s some interesting things going on underneath the frame.

It takes about a paragraph to reveal that the narrator s a laptop.  Its owner, Vicki is “experiencing a runtime error…in your language she is little uptight.”  They are out and about.  It assumes they are going to the cafe (where the laptop sees its usual and preferred table).  But they walk past the cafe–are they going to the greasy spoon (the laptop would have shown its displeasure by not connecting to the Wi-Fi).  But no.  It’s even worse. (more…)

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lastgSOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-A Very She & Him Christmas (2011).

shehimI love the packaging of this disc (the envelope with the Christmas letter/liner notes is charming).

I really enjoyed Zooey Deschanel’s singing in Elf, I thought it was really pretty and surprisingly unaffected.  So it’s not too surprising that she stared making records herself.  And M Ward seems like a perfect accompaniment to her slow, rather old school style of singing.

I have a hard time getting into the She & Him records though.  They’re just, yes, too slow for me.  The tempo is perfect for her voice, which is naturally very pure and clean.  And she even has a good crooning style, I just need the songs to be a little peppier.  Or like on “Run Run Reindeer,” I find her version is kind of abrupt, perhaps she doesn’t really hold her notes for very long which I find disconcerting.

I like the first two songs, “The Christmas Waltz,” and “Christmas Day” because they are songs I didn’t know already, so I had no expectations.  “Christmas Wish” is really nice with Ward taking lead vocals.   As for Zooey’s leads, I like “Sleigh Ride” quite a lot.  And their version of “Silver Bells” on ukulele is just beautiful.

This collection of songs is quite nice, if not a little too mellow.  It sets a mood and follows through all the way, which is good.  I really do wish I liked it more.

[READ: December 5, 2014] The Last Girlfriend on Earth

I love Simon Rich, but sometimes I lose touch with just how many books he releases.  So when he was on Seth Meyers the other night I learned that he had a new book out, which was great.  But then I also learned that I missed his last two books!  Jeez.  One is a novel and this one is a collection of short stories.

I have said before that I love Rich’s really short pieces–he is so good with a set up and punchline.  Most of these stories are longer, and they are pretty much all very funny indeed.

The book is set up in three parts: Boy Meets Girl, Boy Gets Girl and Boy Loses Girl.  And indeed, the stories in each section do match up to that general setup (it’s quite clever) although they are not connected to each other.  Several of these stories appeared in the New Yorker and it was fun to read them again and to see them in this new context.

Incidentally, they are making a TV show based on this book, airing in the new year on FXX, called Man Seeking Woman–I hope it’s good. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHE & HIM-Volume One (2008).

If you’ve seen Elf, and I’m sure you have, then you know that Zooey Deschanel has a beautiful voice. This record is a collection of her songs, sung by her with instrumentation by M. Ward, whose music I don’t know. The thing I learned about her voice is that it comes across as a very naked sound. It’s a little bit disconcerting in this day of vibrato and AutoTune, to hear someone singing so purely and with no affectation. That was evident in Elf, but it is really brought to the front here, where she sings an a capella track as well as some songs with limited instrumentation.

The bulk of the record is done in a style like 50s & 60s girl groups–The Ronettes, The Shirelles, and the Phil Spector wall of sound style. Her voice is suited perfectly to this kind of material. Even the recording style is very clean–one or two tracks sound like they could be from that era, just recently rediscovered. The rest of the songs have a country feel, a stripped down heartbreaky feel. And once again, her voice sounds great.

The whole collection just seems so sweet and unaffected, it’s almost impossible to believe that it was all written and recorded in 2008.

The only problem for me is that I don’t really like 60s girl groups, and I don’t really like country that much. So, really, I don’t like the CD all that much. I’ve given it a couple of spins, and it definitely overcomes the things that I don’t like about those styles. I even found myself singing two of the songs to myself this morning. It definitely deserves the great press, I just wish it was more my thing.

[READ: July 1, 2008] “Free Radicals”

The second Munro story in two days for me. And many of the elements are in place: idyllic, Canadian life, female protagonist, and a fairly unspeakable horror. (more…)

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