She & Him, the collaborative outfit for singer and actress Zooey Deschanel and guitarist and producer M. Ward, reunite for the fifth time with this all-covers collection of classic vocal tunes. Simply entitled Classics, the 13 tracks on their major-label debut were all originally written between 1930-1974. With Deschanel’s perfectly airy and retro vocals and Ward’s diverse and underrated guitar skills, the super-duo bring their indie pop influences to Classics and end up with modern renditions of songs beloved by previous generations.
Deschanel’s affinity for and loyalty towards for vintage crooning makes her a prime candidate for these faithful interpretations. She adds just enough trembling treble in Frank Sinatra’s “It’s Always You” and seems to play hard-to-get with the piano in “It’s Not For Me To Say,” written for the 1957 film Lizzie and sung by Johnny Mathis. And Ward, who so graciously and too often lets Deschanel take the musical spotlight, sings more on this record than other She & Him releases. “She,” a song written Charles Aznavour and Herbert Kretzmer and released in 1974, features Ward’s husky vocals taking the lead. Their voices mesh beautifully in the proper duet of “Time After Time,” another Sinatra tune from the 1947 romantic comedy/musical It Happened in Brooklyn, and in Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong‘s “Would You Like To Take A Walk?” Additionally, Ward co-arranged a full 20-piece orchestra to support them on Classics, adding lushness and helping transport listeners back to bygone years.
Deschanel and Ward have noted that they selected the 13 pop standards on Classics for their timelessness and universal appeal. However, these choices are so close to the duo’s musical sweet spot that She & Him don’t even need to leave their comfort zone to adapt for current times and audiences. Still, Classics presents these songs faithfully and inoffensively, and She & Him cover them with the best of intentions.