It feels like this was bound to happen. A decree by the power pop Gods from high, even. At some point you just knew there was going to be a She & Him covers album filled with Brian Wilson covers. The Zooey Deschanel/M. Ward project has been a source of pop song comfort since their 2008 debut Volume One. I admit, I fell for their charms on that first album. Deschanel has the kind of voice that you fall into easily, like a worn pair of jeans that feel nice all the time regardless of how bloated you might feel. And M. Ward is an amazing musician and studio wizard, with a solid discography under his belt. Together they get to live out their Brill Building fantasies, 60s-inflected pop songs with the right amount of whimsy and melancholy.
As I said before, it was only a matter of time till we got a Brian Wilson covers album from She & Him, and that time is now. Melt Away : A Tribute To Brian Wilson is 14 Wilson covers that don’t stray too far from Wilson’s pop formula. It’s a pleasant listen, but I’m not so sure if it’s all that necessary.
There’s no denying She & Him make catchy tunes. Deschanel and Ward’s voices mesh well together, and Ward’s production gives the proceedings a sort of dreamy vibe. Kind of retro with Phil Spector sonic touches. Album opener “Darlin” has some head bopping charm to it. Ward’s voice has that quality where it sounds like he’s trying not to sing too loud, giving it a sort of whispered charm. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is kind of sparse in the accompaniment dept, but they make up for it with a wall of background vocals.
“Don’t Talk(Put Your Head On My Shoulders)” is a highlight here as She & Him actually do something different with it. It feels genuinely reimagined with ghostly lap steel and Ward’s warm harmonies give the song an early 60s folk pop feel. And Zooey Deschanel sounds genuinely stunning.
Too often though many of these covers just feel underwhelming. Like something these two would pull out during a show and get some oohs and ahhs, then they’d go back to their originals. Much like their Beatles cover on the debut. “Don’t Worry Baby” loses all of its heart string-plucking glory with She & Him’s uncaffeinated take. “Do It Again(featuring Brian Wilson)” just sounds dull. Brian Wilson’s performance sounds obligatory, not inspired.
Nearly 15 years on She & Him have proven somewhat forgettable. It was a fun project at the time, and in the scope of late 2000s indie music it made sense. Now, it just seems unnecessary. And a Brian Wilson covers album? Even more so. Give me a solo M. Ward album any day.