Many a curiosity for a band/music artist arises through my neighborhood romps with DivaStar. During one of these walks over Christmas Break, I decided to introduce her to k.d. lang. As we strolled along contentedly listening to my ipod, strung together with one earbud in her ear and one in mine (admittedly an awkward way to share an ipod, as neither person can get too far away from each other, and if you walk too close you step on each other's feet), DivaStar made a strange comment:
Even though I never knew that Zooey Deschanel had a band, I decided to take DivaStar up on her idea and see whether this person really did resemble k.d. lang. Now, having listened to She & Him's Volume Two, I can confidently say that Zooey Deschanel sounds NOTHING like k.d. lang. In fact, she kind of sucks.
Of course, the key words here are "kind of." Some of the songs Deschanel sings, like "Ridin' In My Car" and "Over It Over Again", are OK enough to listen to more than once. But that's it: they're OK. In other words, they're the least annoying/dull songs on the album. All the others have a bland, upbeat, girlish sweetness to them that I find unpalatable - mainly because it makes them sound so similar that they're extremely boring. (Music reviewer Rob Dixon says it best when he admits of Volume Two, "the sweetness might not be to everyone's taste though, particularly as on initial listens some tracks can appear somewhat samey.")
Volume Two's overall blandness is even more damning when it leaves its songs devoid of feeling. Take the single "Thieves", for example. I simply don't understand how fans enjoyed this song enough to make it a single; the instrumentation is tiresome, and Deschanel's voice is irritating because it wavers between high-pitched nasally-whiny and girlishly sweet without passion. "Thieves" is a cutesy song pretending to be heartfelt but failing to convey any real heart. How can anyone truly like that kind of song?
(Then again, people loved Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe", and it's exactly the same: cutesy while being insincere and bland. Maybe it's just further evidence that, when it comes to singles, the public will always go for the most generic and flavorless upbeat songs on the pop music charts.)
Still, the worst part about She & Him's bland sweetness is how much it sounds like a bad '60s band. In fact, the more I listen to She & Him, the more they sound like the Beach Boys. And I detest the Beach Boys.
I know this is a personal bias on my part. But I can't help it; the Beach Boys have irritated me for years. Furthermore, I can't help but recall "Surfin' USA" and "I Get Around" when I listen to She & Him songs like "In the Sun" and "Don't Look Back." Same nasal quality; same annoying chorus; same sort of headachingly-bopping instrumentation; same blah-1960's sound. Even Deschanel's music videos scream 1960's: everybody dresses, dances, smiles, sings, lives and breathes like they're exuding the '60s through their pores. It's corny and happy-go-lucky enough to make the Beach Boys proud.
Don't believe me? Check out the music videos below and see!!
There's not much more I can say about She & Him at present, since I've only heard one of their albums. Maybe the other albums have better songs than Volume Two had ... or at least sound less like a musical '60s advertisement. And maybe the mp3 files of "Ridin' In My Car" and "Over It Over Again" (which I've attached below) will strike your fancy. For now, though, all I know is that k.d. lang puts better expression into her dullest song than Zooey Deschanel puts into her best.