Today I want to blog about one of my favorite AMERICAN bands: She & Him. Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward are a great pop music duo. They are considered an “indie” group, and are popular with Hipsters. Matt is a well known folk artist and singer-songwriter. Zooey is more famous as an actress, but she is also a uniquely talented songwriter, singer and performer. I will share this YouTube video (720 HD available) of a song from their great second album (simply titled “Volume 2”), a 2010 release. The song/music video is “Don’t Look Back”. This is fun, and it is probably one of my favorite music videos of all time.
I think that Zooey and Matt have incredible chemistry together. Like the Beatles before them, She & Him as a group are probably greater than the sum of their parts individually. Matt Ward has considerable success in the American folk music genre, and is well respected as a guitarist. “M. Ward” as he is known — is popular with Portland coffee-shop hipsters. His “Monster’s of Folk” has received critical acclaim. Because of this, some listeners think that Matt is the songwriter, and Zooey is just a pretty actress who sings his songs. However, it is actually ZOOEY who is the songwriter, and Matt works as producer/guitarist extraordinaire. Their respective talents compliment each other perfectly. The two have been collaborating since 2007.
Regarding the singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel: I get some funny looks from friends when I tell them that I think she is a songwriting genius! I know, she is known primarily as an actress with a pretty face, but I love her work with She & Him. I’m from the “baby boom” generation. I’m an aging baby-boomer. Finding “new” music that I can relate to can be difficult. I like She & Him because Zooey writes new songs that sound like it is the 1960s! Her pop songs recall the early-to-mid-mid-sixties Beach Boys, Beatles and those wonderful “girl groups” from that period, such as the Ronettes or the Supremes. This lady is a music historian, and a good one. She has a good understanding of the genre. She is a California girl, and some of her songs sound like southern California country-rockers like Linda Ronstadt. She blends this retro-style with the style of “new wave” songs circa 1980 (the year Zooey was born!). Matt’s production is incredibly authentic. Mr. M.Ward also has a lot of respect for music history. He captures a “modern-meets-retro” feel. Is it oldies, or is it hipster music? Both! Just great songs. Just great execution. They also choose the occasional cover song wisely. (“Riding in my Car” by NRBQ is a good example.) Finally, I can go out and buy “new” music! Well, once in a while … “Volume 3” was released in Spring 2013. I just wish they could make more …
It is true that they are not a prolific duo, however. There are only three albums of original Deschanel material, plus a Christmas album, and a few on compilation records. My only complaint with these two is that they do not produce enough music. Zooey is 85% actress and maybe 15% musician. If those percentages were reversed, I think that she would go down in music history as one of the all-time greats. (Dylan, Lennon, Hendrix, etc.) I kid you not. She just has not accumulated as much material as those legends yet. Ms. D. is sometimes marketed in show business as some type of ditz or lightweight, when nothing could be further than the truth. You can say that Ms. Deschanel is a good actress. Fine. I am not a huge fan of her movies, but many are good, and she is always good in all of them. She is funny enough. Notice I did not say “quirky” and never do when discussing the great Z.D. Yes, her current TV show is cute enough, but it is not why I follow her.
The woman knows her classics (e.g. the lyric here “Orpheus melted the heart of Persephone”). I feel that Zooey and I are in a way, “kindred spirits” … and… no really … I’m serious. I know — how could I relate to one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women? … when Denny is such a nerdy slob? Well, I meant that we have SIMILAR TASTES IN AMERICAN POP MUSIC. Otherwise, we would never be mistaken for each other at Hollywood restaurants. The Pantene commercials, the make-up ads and all that — I have no idea about, it is true. I will not be out partying with her and the girls. When it comes to songwriting in the genre I like however, she zeros in on my DNA.
“Modern-Meets-Retro” might also be the theme of this “Don’t Look Back” music video. I love how the director referenced all of those “Futureworld” artifacts. For we Baby-Boomers, these items represent the promise that never came true. This is the future that never was. As kids, we really thought that we would someday be flying to school on jetpacks! It is a very cute video from start to finish. Enjoy this, and perhaps you will navigate to more She & Him on YouTube.
Oddly, some of Matt’s “folk purist” fans dislike Zooey. I have to think that the reason for the hipster-hatred is is because Ms. Z is an actress. Zooey may not be taken seriously as an artist, because she is just too pretty. The logic is that “if she is that good looking, she must not have any substance.” I disagree, and this is a subject I may have to blog about at another time. Perhaps she will spend more time with her songwriting when she is done with her television show.
Behind this pretty face is the soul of a truly great pop music songwriter!