In the inaugural Who's Next blog I joked that the fact I own multiple copies of the Who's acclaimed 1971 album, Who's Next, makes me qualified to write this very Who's Next blog. You probably thought that was just some lame joke — and you were right — but believe it or not, there is a connection between a hot new act and the Who. The hot new act I write of is She & Him.
Who are they, you ask? She & Him is a duo consisting of actress/singer Zooey Deschanel and indie alt-country/folk artist M. Ward. And how are She & Him related to the Who, you ask? Well, late last year I had the pleasure of attending a date at the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood, Calif., billed as Rachel Fuller In The Attic With Pete Townshend And Friends. As some of you may know, Townshend is the guitarist and chief songwriter in the Who. Fuller is his girlfriend, partner, and artist in her own right. The so-called "Friends" that night included Deschanel and Ward, who performed as She & Him, and even did a Who song with Townshend. Alas, it was not a track from Who's Next, but "Blue, Red And Grey" from The Who By Numbers.
Deschanel, who some say looks a bit like Katy Perry, first came on my radar screen in 2000 as the older sister in Cameron Crowe's biopic Almost Famous. More recently, she co-starred alongside Jim Carrey in Yes Man. She even sang in the shower in 2003's Elf, which is where Ward reportedly first heard her sing.
It was while working on the 2007 film, The Go-Getter, that Deschanel first hooked up with Ward. Ward was commission to do the film's soundtrack and director Martin Hynes reportedly asked the singer/guitarist to duet with Deschanel. The result was a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson's "When I Get To The Border," which subsequently inspired further collaboration between the duo. The result was Volume 1, released in March 2008. The album features smart covers of Smokey Robinson's "You Really Got A Hold On Me," the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better," and the traditional "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which is impressive because those songs have been done to death, and yet She & Him figured out a way to make them sound fresh. Even more impressive is that many of the Deschanel originals--including "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?," featured in the video below--sound like covers of lost classics. Even more impressive is the fact that I'm not the only one that likes the album. In fact, Paste magazine named Volume One its album of the year.
The good news is She & Him isn't just some one-off Hollywood vanity project. Their cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put A Spell On You," which they performed that night at the Troubadour, is featured on the Valentine's Day-themed various artist collection, Sweetheart, which was released exclusively at Starbucks stores last week. And Ward recently told that very same Paste magazine that there is a She & Him Volume Two in the works. "Zooey has about a gazillion brand new awesome songs. All we know about Volume Two is that it's going to be twice as good as Volume One," he told Paste.
The prolific Mr. Ward also has a new solo effort, Hold Time, set for release on Feb. 17. A collaboration with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and My Morning Jacket's Jim James is also in the works, but Ward doesn't imagine that'll see the light of day until 2010 or 2011.
Until then, watch the video and pick up Volume One if you haven't already. And if you happen to fall in love with Zooey Deschanel, I've got some bad news for you, pal. Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie already possesses her heart. The couple announced their engagement late last year, but you can still daydream to the music of She & Him, even if she'll never know who the hell you are.