American indie duo She & Him – actress Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward – formed in 2006 after meeting on the set of film The Go-Getter. Over the past decade, they have released 5 albums together with their last one, Classics, released in 2014. In 2011 She & Him released their first Christmas album entitled A Very She & Him Christmas. Five years on from that record and the duo are releasing new festive album Christmas Party.
The best way to describe Christmas Party is alt-Christmas. She & Him haven’t gone down the traditional bells and whistles route of recording a Christmas album, instead staying true to their unique and organic sound. Deschanel’s voice is a classic one and she brings to mind the likes of Doris Day. On opening track All I Want For Christmas Is You, Deschanel puts her own spin on it rather than trying to recreate Mariah Carey’s notoriously difficult vocal. The end result is a folksier feel that pays homage to the original and celebrates it by adding a unique twist.
The track list for Christmas Party is popular favourites alongside some more obscure tracks. During the festive season it can become tiresome to hear hundreds of versions of the same songs so She & Him’s decision to pick a few lesser known gems works in their favour. Their version of Vashti Bunyon’s The Coldest Night of the Year is beautiful and ethereal while their take on Frank Sinatra’s Christmas Memories is one of the standout moments on the record.
Elsewhere on the record the duo tackles The Chipmunks’ classic Christmas Don’t Be Late, which is better than the original version in my opinion, infuses bluesy jazz on the excellent The Man With The Bag, and enlists The Chapin Sisters for harmony vocals on the tropical Mele Kalikimaka. One of the best moments on the record comes on the stirring Winter Wonderland, which features Jenny Lewis on vocal harmonies.
Christmas Party is a very different kind of festive album. For those that don’t like their Christmas balls out, there’ll be much to enjoy about this low-key but effective collection of songs. If you like Christmas songs to be big, bold and in your face then this collection probably isn’t for you. She & Him have their own niche and Christmas Party follows the style they have become known for. It’s a nice throwback folksy set that is perfect for those long winter nights with mulled wine by the fire.
Track Listing: 1. All I Want for Christmas Is You 2. Let It Snow 3. Must Be Santa 4. Happy Holiday 5. Mele Kalikimaka 6. Christmas Memories 7. Run Run Rudolph 8. Winter Wonderland 9. The Coldest Night of the Year 10. A Marshmallow World 11. The Man with the Bag 12. Christmas Don’t Be Late Record Company: Sony Music CMG Release Date: 28th October 2016