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She & amp; Him & r & & r & Volume One & r & & r & 4 STARS & r & & r & It's easy to be skeptical of any record fronted by a Hollywood starlet. It seems all too easy -- knowing the right channels, the right people.

Enter She & amp; Him -- the new collaborative effort between singer/songwriter M.Ward and Hollywood chanteuse (?) Zooey Deschanel. You'd recognize her from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or from starring alongside Will Ferrell in Elf.

Not only can Deschanel sing, but M.Ward's Mississippi Delta guitar complements her voice almost perfectly. As for her vocal style, think Dusty Springfield meets the Shirelles. But that still puts her in very good company. The Starbucks crowd is going to slurp this up.

Deschanel's songs are tender, sweet, forlorn, even jazzy -- they're not so much pseudo-girl power a la Jenny Lewis (another actress turned musician). On the opening track, "Sentimental Heart," she expresses the perfect tone of nostalgic romanticism when she professes, "... piece of the puzzle, I'm your missing part."


DOWNLOAD: "Sentimental Heart"


Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!


I hate most country music. But Corb Lund is more than country. He's sincerely cowboy -- his most romantic sentiments are about horses. His music has a barroom-refined honky-tonk drive. And thanks to his tenure in a heavy metal band, his songs in Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! have a dark edge. "I Wanna Be in the Cavalry" spotlights Lund's gift for crafting irresistible tunes, and its catchiness allows him a gory reprise. "My Saddle Horse Has Died" becomes a haunting life-in-death mariachi lament. Of the album's lighthearted tracks, the best delves into the perils of having a large family. The ups and downs unify the album, making Lund's perspective on war from the saddle both entertaining and enlightening. Whether he's mourning the loss of mounted warriors in the title track, or satirizing totalitarianism ("Brother Brigham, Brother Young"), Lund's lyrics are smarter, his music snappier and his spirit wilder than anything else in country music.


DOWNLOAD: "I Wanna Be in the Cavalry"
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