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She & Him 

Volume One
(Merge)

"She" is indie-movie cutie Zooey Deschanel, who played Will Ferrell's love interest in Elf. "Him" is indie-rock auteur M. Ward. But Volume One isn't another one of those records by a Hollywood ego-tripper who fancies herself a singer. In fact, it's a very charming exploration and evocation of pre-Sgt. Pepper pop, stirred by Deschanel's winsome voice. Ward provides the guitar and orchestration, which often recalls the grand arrangements of '60s-pop avatars like Burt Bacharach and the Four Seasons' Bob Gaudio. Throughout Volume One, Deschanel comes off like a woman who was forced to grow up too fast, but is determinedly hanging on to a shred of her youthful optimism. "Take It Back" is an ageless set-'em-up-Joe torch song with a shot of twang. In "This Is Not a Test" and "I Was Made for You," Deschanel gives girl groups a spin, sounding as sweet as a strawberry milkshake in July. But she's at her best in the not-quite-a-cappella version of the Motown classic "You Really Got a Hold on Me," where she manages to channel another '60s pop legend: Dusty Springfield. A quiet, graceful gem.

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More by Mark Keresman

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