A Very She & Him Christmas is the perfect way to round off what has been a pretty great year for music in general - January brought us Jessie J's Price Tag and Adele's Someone Like You, and as we head into December we finally get the much-anticipated festive offering from She & Him, AKA Zooey Deschanel and M Ward.
Elf fans, rejoice - you finally have a full-length collection of Christmas classics sung by Zooey Deschanel. Alas, there's no Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and the version of Baby, It's Cold Outside is not the one that appeared in the movie - but this isn't Elf, it's She & Him, so get over it.
Despite that, if you found yourself overwhelmed by nostalgia at the end of that movie - or you love the old-timer style of previous She & Him albums - you're in for a treat here. You'd just better hope you've got a crackling open fire and a mug of mulled wine to enjoy while you're listening; A Very She & Him Christmas kinda demands it.
The duo's truly beautiful rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is the first time in a long time that that particular song has brought me to tears. Admittedly they use the American 'hang a shining star upon the highest bough', rather than the more sombre original 'until then we'll have to muddle through somehow'. But the pacing is perfect and the vocals heartfelt, and it's a genuinely moving version of an enduring classic.
Baby, It's Cold Outside reclaimed its place as a festive favourite thanks to Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews at the end of the last millennium, and it's stayed high on many people's lists ever since. It's also a bit of an indulgence for Elf fans, as it appears in the movie during the shower scene. The version on A Very She & Him Christmas is pretty pacy, but it injects some energy amongst the line-up of often-slow seasonal ballads, and sits nicely alongside the accompanying tracks.
There's plenty to be happy about here - for a start, She & Him's usual retrotastic style is firmly in evidence. This whole album harks back to a time when tree decorations were handmade, the whole family got together every year, and Christmas Day was always snowy. It's an innocent ideal that's perhaps a little dated in principle, but in practice is never anything less than comforting. Why shouldn't every Christmas be white? When did we lose that childish innocence? Stick A Very She & Him Christmas on your CD player and claim it back - as every Scrooge eventually learns, it's never too late.
With that in mind, every criticism becomes a cause for praise - the track listing is hardly surprising; it's the same old songs you've been hearing for the past 50 years (or however long you've been alive). Critics could say the tracks haven't been reinvented. But that's the joy of She & Him. These are classic tracks, clean instrumental arrangements and soulful Deschanel vocal deliveries. A Very She & Him Christmas is the tree without the trimmings, the turkey without the dressings - and that's just fine, you'll love it just the way it is.
Final Score: 94%