This unusual project pairs together Portland guitarst/producer M. Ward and actress (and friend to the elves), Zooey Deschanel - who I've always taken a shine to after assuming her parents were J.D. Salinger fans. After being paired together for a duet over the closing credits of the movie The Go Getter, the unlikely pair formed a developing bond, which led to Deschenal sending her demos to Ward, who suggested recording together. An internet relationship blossomed, ending with the recording of the album which was then mixed by Bright Eyes alumni Mike Mogis - who also plays on the album. It's been out for a while on Merge in the US, but thankfully Domino has seen fit to release this intriguing project in the UK.
Charming opener Sentimental Heart sets the tone, sketching a nostalgic 50's-style tale of teenage angst. Deschanel's crooning voice is effortlessly and infinitly charming, giving the album an instant appeal, while restrained instrumentation backs up the vocals, building slowly into a bombastic ochestral finale. M. Ward makes only the briefest of vocal appearances on the album - dropping in some backing vocals here and there - but he is ever-present and his guitar work adds some magical touches on several occasions. I suspect he's also in charge of what sounds like a kazoo and a touch of whistling.
The album also gives Ward plenty of room to demonstrate his production talents - building up the perfecty positioned retro sound of the album, which manages to show considerable restraint with so many opportunities to break out the brass section - especially next to this year's far less restrained 50's/60's throwback, The Last Shadow Puppets. The sweeping slide guitar of down trodden-broken-hearted-country-ballad Change Is Hard is magical and the Carole King-esqu Thought I saw Your Face builds to a soaring finale, while I Was Made For You finds Deschanel providing her own do-wop backing vocals.
Patsy Cline, Dusty Springfield, Carole King - the reference points span far and wide, but still this album manages to maintain a surprising air of originality. Solid pop with a bit of depth, the songs are never too long - making for a concise, cohesive, continually entertaining album, tied together mostly by the attidude of delivery, which even when potentially maudlin seems continually upbeat.
18th Jul 2008 - Tumblr3.5
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