Release Date: July 22nd 2022
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
She & Him– Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson (Amazon mp3/iTunes)
- Wouldn’t It Be Nice
- Til I Die
- Melt Away
- Good To My Baby
- Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
- Don’t Worry Baby
- This Whole World
- Kiss Me Baby
- Do It Again (feat. Brian Wilson)
- Heads You Win – Tails I Lose
- Please Let Me Wonder
- Meant For You
She & Him aren’t a band that I know a whole lot about. I do know about Zooey Deschanel from her film and TV career (and the TV show New Girl), while I don’t know Matthew Ward from a bar of soap! I do know that this duo (who have been around for 10+ years) are classified in the genre of alternative pop, indie rock, and indie pop; but I haven’t listened to a full album of theirs. There’s no apparent reason though; it’s just that I haven’t gotten around to diving deep into a full album of theirs. Maybe it’s because I don’t naturally gravitate to music of the ‘alternative’ and ‘indie’ musical nature, or maybe it’s another reason. But seeing as though the duo just released their Beach Boys tribute album Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson, and also seeing as I have just uploaded my blog about The Beach Boys… I decided that I better give this album a spin. Though I myself only wrote in depth about the singles of The Beach Boys (which Zooey and Matthew didn’t really cover, except for “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”), the duo covers the obscure tracks; reminding us all, that long-time fans of a particular band are generally touched by and are moved by songs from the entire discography- not just the hit singles, but the lesser-known songs too. You may not resonate with The Beach Boys or She & Him, and as such, this album probably may not be for you. But after a few listens to this powerful, moving, personal and honest project; let me just say that this is a labour of love, and that even if you aren’t a fan of She & Him (or even The Beach Boys), you can still find lyrical and musical gems and treasures if you look hard enough. The Beach Boys are one of the many influences of She & Him, and thus it makes sense that they cover songs that the general public, myself included, aren’t that familiar with. And so… it doesn’t really matter if we don’t resonate with this album. As long as it matters to them… isn’t that what counts in the end?
We started deep into the pandemic. It was very much a project we started working on as a shutdown project. These were songs we both know very well and love very much, and something we’ve always connected on was loving Brian Wilson. Being from Southern California, I think it’s part of the landscape. But we’d never recorded a record remotely like this one; we were sending stuff back and forth, and it was a fun and interesting process.
We each picked about a dozen of our favorite Brian Wilson songs that we thought we could try reimagining. And that eventually got whittled down to what made it to the record. This album easily could have been two or three volumes. There’s so much of his catalogue to be inspired by.
It’s funny — our plan was always for it to be a tribute to Brian. But I don’t think we thought that we should ask Brian to be on one of the tracks. We thought this will be something that we’ll send him that hopefully he’ll like. But then “Do It Again,” I’ve always loved that song. But I was like, I can’t sing this one very well, and Matt was like, Well I can’t sing this one very well. We were both unsure of our own ability to do that song. It’s got a percussive vocal top-line melody. It’s so Beach Boys that it’s hard to pivot from how the original was done. So we were thinking we’d ask a guest to be on it. And I was like, Why don’t we just ask Brian? We’ve gotten to work with him and interact with him so much, and he has a really cool team around him, too. All the folks that he collaborates with are amazing. Being such a fan for so long, somehow, this passion brought us into his orbit to some degree, which is such a blessing.
All of these 13 tracks are covers from the California surf pop band… and all of them are lesser-known tracks, aside from one song. I’ve written about The Beach Boys extensively in my blog about them as an iconic and identity building artist– I’ve also written heavily about Brian Wilson and Mike Love’s feud that has lasted years and years and years. Not much needs to be said about this iconic band, because a quick or detailed read of my blog will tell you all you need to know about The Beach Boys. And therefore… does anything need to be said about this album? Does Melt Away: A Tribute To Brian Wilson need to be reviewed? If you’re not a Beach Boys fan, will this album even connect with you? Well, I’ve listened to this album a few times, and though I couldn’t have guessed that the bulk of these songs were Beach Boys songs as a casual fan from just listening to the album if it wasn’t made aware to me that these were Beach Boys songs; that still doesn’t mean that these songs, these very obscure songs, aren’t less poignant nor emotional nor honest. “Darlin’” is a sweet, sentimental, and nostalgic love song about two people who care for each other very much, while “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is the highlight here- a brilliant cover where Zooey’s pristine and powerful vocals shine. “Til I Die” is a haunting and mysterious melody where the duo ponder the meaning of life and whether everything that we undertake in this life is meaningful or whether it is all meaningless; while “Diedre” is a melody dedicated to a special person called… Diedre? The title track is next, and Zooey’s singing is captivating and magical… but this whole album is light jazz, and there are no upbeat tracks. It’s a shame because at this point, all the songs start to blur together, and aside from the upbeat “Darlin’” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” at the beginning of the album, the rest of the project pales in comparison. Sure, there are a couple of experimental tracks near the end (“Do It Again” and “Heads You Win – Tails I Lose”), but musically, I reckon this album will be for those of you who love jazz and who probably appreciate The Beach Boys way more than most of us. And why are there no other hits and singles included from the band? Is it because this album is about songs written by solely Brian Wilson and not by The Beach Boys (which would include Mike Love)?
Maybe this is how She & Him are. I haven’t listened to a single album of theirs straight through and so maybe I’m griping about how they are stylistically, and I don’t even know it. Regardless, Zooey’s vocals are amazing and refreshing here; and this album reminds us that The Beach Boys are timeless. Melt Away isn’t for everyone… but She & Him are sure having fun with these songs. If you’re a jazz enthusiast, then you’ll love the project. For the rest of us, it may take some time getting used to. But I say stick with it- you might find what you need to listen to, and you may find your next favourite song. Well done She & Him, for crafting an interesting yet equally profound and compelling project… even if it is a little more niche than we would have thought.
Normally if you have a song that changes keys a number of times, it feels clunky, or it feels complicated, or it might be an acquired taste. These have this effortlessness that is so incredible given the complexity of his songs. I’ve been singing along to these songs my entire life, and it was fun to add those extra harmonies. There’s almost always an extra backing vocal that I can put in the mix. I’m sure for Matt too.
I’m always excited to make a She & Him record. I’m always excited to work with Matt. We’re just doing stuff because it’s fun for us and we like it. It’s not really to pander or try to be cool or try to have our fingers on the pulse or anything. There’s a purity to it that I appreciate and love being a part of.
4 songs to listen to: Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Good To My Baby, This Whole World, Please Let Me Wonder
RIYL: Vance Joy, Imagine Dragons, Ben Rector, Mumford And Sons, Needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Chvrches, Caitlyn Smith, Coldplay