Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Heart Zooey

Yes, here it is, the long delayed Zooey Post. The idea of a post devoted to the music of Zooey Deschanel has been brewing for a couple years now, unconsciously awaiting a full-length Zooey CD to emerge. Under the moniker of She & Him, her collaboration with indie folk artist M. Ward entitled Volume 1, a title which tantalizingly foresees future recordings, hit stores yesterday on one of those magic new music Tuesdays. Next week will prove to be even more magical as new albums from Raconteurs, Danny Michel, and Supergrass all hit on the same day! But for now, back to Zooey.

I've been entranced with Zooey Deschanel ever since Almost Famous when she leaned down, looked directly in the camera with big googly eyes, and said:

"One day... you'll be cool."

...parting words to her younger brother William as she left home to become a stewardess. She also leaves a treasure trove of LPs behind for him: Pet Sounds, Zeppelin II, Axis: Bold as Love, The Who's Tommy... what's not to love? Mainstream audiences first got a taste of her singing talents in the 2003 Will Ferrell hit Elf, the soundtrack of which features her in a duet with Leon Redbone on the standard Baby, It's Cold Outside. Other things you may recognize her from:
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as Trillian
  • Bridge to Terabithia as a elementary school music teacher (contrary to its baffling ad campaign, a surprisingly moving film)
  • a guest stint on Weeds
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (she sings in this too)
She'll be seen next in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, but a planned Janis Joplin biopic with Zooey in the lead role seems to be on indefinite hold. While she has sometimes been relegated to "quirky best friend" supporting roles in movies like The Good Girl and Failure to Launch, she has also had prominent lead roles in several indie films such as All the Real Girls, Eulogy, Winter Passing, and The Go-Getter. The Go-Getter's soundtrack was composed by M. Ward (of whom I know absolutely nothing about) and her involvement in that project is ultimately what would lead to the She & Him collaboration. For that soundtrack, the director Martin Hynes suggested Zooey and M. Ward perform a duet together, which would end up being a cover of Richard & Linda Thompson's When I Get to the Border. Apparently good times were had by all and soon M. Ward was listening to her demos. Thus, She & Him were born.

Zooey Deschanel & Leon Redbone - Baby, It's Cold Outside [originally by Frank Loesser]
M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel - When I Get to the Border [originally by Richard & Linda Thompson]

Hearing her croon on Baby, It's Cold Outside was a revelation, but my fascination with Zooey Deschanel was further sparked when I found out she performed in a jazz cabaret act with fellow actress Samantha Shelton called If All The Stars Were Pretty Babies. To my knowledge, they only performed in clubs in Los Angeles. While there are no official recordings of If All the Stars... there are a couple clips floating around and a 1926 recording (cover, no less!) of the song that inspired their act's name.

The Green Brothers' Novelty Band - If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies (And I Was a Moon In The Moon) [originally by Fred Fisher and Billy Rose] [via]

Zooey Deschanel & Samantha Shelton - Walk Right Back [originally by The Everly Brothers]
Zooey Deschanel & Samantha Shelton - Stormy Weather [originally by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler]

Zooey Deschanel - Dream a Little Dream of Me [originally by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt]
Zooey performed this at an Erin Fetherston fashion show gig. Apparently, she models for her as well.

Zooey Deschanel - Hello Dolly [originally by Jerry Herman]
From the short film Raving directed by Julia Stiles, Zooey's penchant for singing jazz standards is once again on display.

M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel - Bring It On Home to Me [originally by Sam Cooke]
M. Ward & Zooey Deschanel - Magic Trick
From a live radio session last summer before they adopted the name She & Him. Neither of these songs ended up on the final album, though I'm a fan of both.

Coconut Records - Slowly
Coconut Records - Ask Her to Dance
Last year, one of my favourite albums was Coconut Records, the solo project by actor Jason Schwartzman, a former boyfriend of Zooey. On the album, she contributes some background vocals to these two tracks.

Expect to hear more from Zooey Deschanel later this year. It's been 3 years since Ben Lee announced his Mix Tape project, in which a remarkable assembly of guest artists perform songs he's composed. On the menu: Neil Finn, Kylie Minogue, Ben Folds, the eels, Gomez, Ash, Nina Persson, Zooey, Sean Lennon, Maria Taylor, New Buffalo, Sleepy Jackson... and more. While I had vaguely given up hope of even hearing this, in a blog entry from last October, Ben describes the project as his own "personal 'Apocalypse Now!' taking me about 5 years to finish". All signs point to a release in 2008.

Last weekend, She & Him performed one of their rare tour dates at SXSW. Go to The Smudge of Ashen Fluff to hear three tracks they performed for the radio from their album: This is Not a Test, Black Hole, and Change is Hard.

Also, you can sample whole album here. Some promising reviews from The AV Club and Pitchfork... not that anything could really stop me from buying the record anyway.

Surprisingly one of the best, most up-to-date sources for Zooey Deschanel news of all sorts (including several of these mp3s) is a 4-year old thread run amok on The Fashion Spot forums. Kudos to them!


Anonymous said...

great blog! i'm a big fan of zooey too. kudos to you!

Kurtis said...

Great post Jamie! I also love her voice. Singing and speaking. She did a great job lending her voice to Surf's Up.

Anonymous said...

I like this girl

Anonymous said...

The Go-Getter which premiered at Sundance Film Festival is coming to theaters in June (NY and LA first) and features Zooey in the romantic lead and M. Ward not only does the sountrack, but has a cameo in the film . . .

r said...


Jatal Lusad said...

There are few women whose voice haunts me. I've been looking for this voice for so long. An now that I've found it...such ecstasy. Such a treat!

Dainon. said...

Wow! Let me know if these links ever go live again. I love Zooey so much.

Fongolia said...

I'm afraid I don't do re-posts so these links won't be going live again.

...That said, you may want to, uh, check out this link (cough, cough).

peri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber said...

THANK YOU so much! I've been looking for the songs that aren't on iTunes/Amazon for what seems like ever. Her voice is amazing!

ilikedginger said...

Shucks, I'm late.

eydazil said...

i loooooooove zooey. nice post.

nono_the_bean said...

hi, nice post, very interesting. i noticed you took the download links off, is there any way you could send me zooey's songs? i can't find them anywhere on the internet! thanks very much!

Fongolia said...

Most of the songs here. :)

nono_the_bean said...

thanks, you just made my day!

Sirisha said...

I have been searching everywhere trying to find the mp3 or something of her singing "dream a little dream of me." I'm tired of watching it on youtube, where the heck can I find it??

Fongolia said...

Sirisha, check my response to a previous comment and you'll find what you're looking for. ;)

Sirisha said...