In August She & Him, comprised of the inescapably whimsical Zooey Deschanel and music guru M. Ward, announced Classics, a cover album featuring 13 "carefully-selected, timeless standards." We now know this cover collaboration will finally drop Dec. 2.
You can already listen to one full-length tune, a She & Him rendition of Dusty Springfield's "Stay Awhile," by tuning into 1201AM at the band's website. But the definitive news that we'll be seeing this album in 2014, only made me think of all the great M.Ward covers we already have.
I've always preferred the solo work of Portland-based Matthew Ward over the sunny-soaked folk tracks on She & Him albums, and M.Ward already has several great covers dotted throughout his discography. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Buddy Holly is one of the most tragic stories in music history as he was at the top of his game before dying in a plane crash in 1959. But one of his absolute best songs was "Rave On," and M. Ward does a great job of blending together Holly's energy with his own lilting voice and slowed down tempo. This turns Holly's 2-minute classic into 7 minutes of musical bliss.
"Story of an Artist" never appears on a proper M. Ward album, but his distillation of Daniel Johnston's original is completely haunting and full of emotion. This particular song is a pretty big departure from the original, but still holds that undeniable Daniel Johnston quality. Ward would also go on to cover Johnston's "To Go Home" on his sixth studio album, Post-War.
Of all songs M. Ward has ever covered, "Let's Dance" is probably the most radically different. Replacing David Bowie's 80s pop style with more subdued lyrical folk, M. Ward's take is both a joy to listen to and a fitting homage to Ziggy himself. Also, that harmonica.
M. Ward also applies his signature treatment to Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open The Door." Once again, bringing the tempo down in opposition to Townshend's breakneck speed, M. Ward turns this fun 80s tune into a heartfelt track of love and longing. Though I must say, Townshend's original is still catchy as hell.
So I know this is an actual She & Him track, and I was focusing exclusively on M. Ward's solo work, but this is one of only a handful of tracks that Ward vocal cords get some exercise. Where The Beatles' original was the whole band replying in unison to some unknown female crush, She & Him distort the lyrics just enough to make the song more of a playful back-and-forth between Deschanel and Ward.
If M. Ward's affinity for great covers is any indication, Classics will be a must-listen once in releases in December. But until then, there are plenty of great tracks to choose from.