she & him

Live Review: She & Him @ Koko, 7 May 2010

To call the crowd at last week's She & Him gig at Koko in London 'fanboys' would only be wide-of-the-mark insofar that there seemed to be just as many girls looking to declare their love for lead singer (and Hollywood star) Zooey Deschanel as their were boys.

Fan-people, then. And inevitably it is possible to feel slightly alienated in such a crowd, particularly when ever second of silence is instantly filled with an offer to impregnate a member of the band, yet She & Him were both able to rise above it. Things may not have started perfectly - Deschanel spent virtually no time interacting with the audience between numbers and the nature of their catalogue means the best was bound to come towards the end, but as the duo warmed up and Zooey opened up the songs began to speak for themselves.

Interestingly the performance had several levels of performance - a full band with two backing singers, the full band without the extra singers and finally just Deschanel and M. Ward.  The differing levels helped make the event flow through what is otherwise a set of songs that are similar in styles but the gig was undoubtedly at its best when stripped back to just Ward and Deschanel with performances of 'You Really Got a Hold On Me' and the duo's cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' 'I Put A Spell On You', both of which enraptured the audience - especially the latter's extremely long notes from Zooey.

A performance that veered from enjoyable to, at times, thrilling.

BP x

Album Review: Volume Two - She & Him

There must be a beautiful world out there somewhere where film stars are always wonderfully interesting and where they make lovely pop records that are actually a pleasure to listening.

Whilst you carry on the search for this world BlackPlastic is happy to settle for one such star - the rather appealing Zooey Deschanel. So, fanboy yearning put to one side - Volume Two is Deschanel's second collaboration with musician M. Ward and, as She & Him, follows up on (you guessed it) 2008's Volume One.

So avert your eyes from the BlackPlastic "Alternative Electronic Music" masthead for a few minutes because Volume Two is gently crafted sixties-pop-cum-country music. And we can't help but go a bit doughy on it. What Deschanel lacks in vocal range she more than makes up for in the ability to pen a nice tune and M. Ward's backing does a perfect job of providing the perfect environment to make Zooey shine. The best examples, where the vocals and the music swell in unison as on 'Don't Look Back' and 'Lingering Still' ("And the world's like a science and I'm like a secret" Zooey sings convincingly on the latter), capture a wonderfully kitsch sparkle that transports BlackPlastic to a summer's day.

Compared to Volume One this outing is superior in all ways bar one. Since Volume Two is a more consistent yet more varied album, BlackPlastic can only be disappointed by the fact that there is nothing quite as joyfully edible and sumptuous as Volume One's 'Why Do You Let Me Stay Here'. It's an unfair, churlish criticism perhaps but it ensures that both albums still deserve a listen.

So ultimately Volume Two is the same joyful ye olde fashioned pop music as Volume One. It's warm, arms-open retro hugs.

BP x

Volume Two is out now on Domino, available from on CD, LP and MP3 [affiliate links].