She & Him – Volume 3
by Suzie Conway (Communications), published May 13th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
While the naming scheme of She & Him’s albums would indicate otherwise, I was still convinced that 2008’s debut by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, Volume One, would be a one-time musical dalliance for the actress (I mean, does anyone remember Scarlett Johansson’s singing career? Hopefully not.). For one thing, Deschanel’s a busy lady with a full slate of acting gigs and what I suspect to be a time-consuming eyelash enhancing routine. M. Ward, similarly, has a strong solo career, not to mention the Monsters of Folk side project. He also finds the time to contribute to other artists’ albums, like Jenny Lewis. Somehow, in the five years since She & Him’s debut, they’ve squeezed out four records, including their ever-so-slightly creepy Christmas album.
What the first volume of this collection did so well was establish an intimacy between Deschanel and Ward, crafting such warm, small-scale songs between them and making the listener feel as if they were almost an intruder. The second volume expanded a bit beyond those limitations, most notably with the single and accompanying music video for “In the Sun” — a large-scale performance, indeed. But here in Volume 3, She & Him are almost entirely breaking from the intimate, opting for songs not just fit for the lonely or the lonely at heart.
The trademark of sad songs set to uncharacteristically cheery melodies is kept intact here. A plucky guitar from M. Ward and fluttery vocals from Deschanel offset the mildly depressing lyric “If I could do it over/ I’d send you the pillow that I cried on,” on the track “I Could’ve Been Your Girl.” In each volume, She & Him always seem to toe the line between a Dolly Parton country twang, in both Deschanel’s vocals and M. Ward’s guitar work (“Something’s Haunting You”), and something straight out of the 1960s R&B era of girl groups like The Shirelles (strangely enough, a triumphant take on Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”). This isn’t unlike She & Him’s previous work, but these songs seem to bleed right into one another instead of isolating the styles, a great feat that refrains from being too kitschy.
There are certainly some weak points on the album. Despite the nice addition of the sax on “Together,” the chanting of the line “We all go through it together/But we all go at it alone” is a strange lyric to use as an anthem. “London” is an outlier just backed by piano, and where this could have given Deschanel a greater opportunity to explore the range of her voice, her sad-sack delivery is lackluster as well.
There’s a strength and confidence that emanates from this album, showing that the first two weren’t flukes. Between M. Ward’s skills as a producer and instrumentalist (though Deschanel’s contributions in that department shouldn’t be overlooked) and Deschanel’s decidedly chipper delivery and relatively skillful vocal range, She & Him has made a memorable entry into their ongoing collection. Even though there may be a bit of Zooey Deschanel fatigue for many these days, She & Him is certainly hitting their stride and finding their place in creating retro pop standards.
Recommended Tracks: I’ve Got Your Number Son, I Could’ve Been Your Girl, Sunday Girl