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The Excellent “She & Him: Volume 3” Sounds Like Summer

May 13, 2013

By John C.

Volume 3 CD CoverLast week, the musical duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward released their latest collection of songs.  Aptly titled She & Him: Volume 3, this is their fourth collaboration after the excellent A Very She & Him Christmas, and this latest set provides the perfect soundtrack for the summer in the same way that their last album did for the holiday season.

I’ve been a fan of Zooey Deschanel as both an actress and singer since I first saw Elf, and I’ve enjoyed watching her progression since then, from her work on the excellent New Girl and her collaborations with M. Ward.  Throughout the second season of New Girl, which incidentally wraps up tomorrow night, I’ve really enjoyed the character development of the ensemble cast, and how they have advanced through the overall story of the show.

I’ve been equally impressed by hearing Zooey Deschanel’s progression as a singer, and she sounds completely confident as a performer throughout Volume 3, even when laying bare the emotional elements of the songs.  The pure sound of her voice is expertly backed up by the inventive instrumental arrangements of M. Ward, providing a wonderful throwback album that is channelled through modern indie pop music.  Throughout the fourteen tracks, She & Him: Volume 3 sounds like the season of summer in all of its glory.

The album opens with “I’ve Got Your Number, Son,” an upbeat throwback to the 1960s filled with catchy instrumentals and vocals that immediately set the tone for the rest of the album, recalling the summery sound of The Beach Boys.  The second track is “Never Wanted Your Love,” an incredibly appealing song that has spectacular replay value, offering the same mix of bright instrumentals and smartly reflective lyricism that has made She & Him so successful over the years.  “I’m not talking to you anymore, I’m making my bed so I can lie there forever,” Zooey Deschanel sings on the chorus, providing an instantly memorable hook to the track.

The vocals of M. Ward come into the foreground on the third track “Baby,” a sweet love song that works in the same way that the duets did on the Christmas album, with pleasant harmonies between their two voices.  The fourth track, “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” is a likeable song that is wistful for a love that didn’t work out.  There is an introspective quality to many of the lyrics, and the fifth track “Turn to White” plays with the contemplative sound of a relationship that is slowly drifting away.  “Sometimes I think I can fade away,” Zooey Deschanel sings on the chorus, suggesting that the album serves as a time capsule of what she was feeling when she wrote the songs.

The sixth and seventh tracks “Somebody Sweet To Talk To”and “Something’s Haunting You” are both prime examples of the delightful sound of Zooey Deschanel’s voice.  The eighth track “Together” is an immensely appealing indie pop song, and the hook of “we all go through it together, but we all go at it alone” is just one of the many examples of the clever songwriting at play throughout the album.  The duo pulls off a sweeping cover of the 1950s song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” for the ninth track, a perfect mix of classic instrumentals and seductively romantic vocals.

The tenth track “Snow Queen” sees her coming to terms with how she doesn’t want to just “sit around and wait for the telephone to ring,” suggesting that she is stronger for coming through a relationship and standing on her own.  The eleventh track is actually a cover of the Blondie song “Sunday Girl,” a fun take on the 1970s track that at once pays tribute to the original while sounding like something out of the She & Him catalogue.  This is an example of a cover that holds up well alongside the classic recording, as the duo manages to make it their own without changing the melody.

This leads into “London,” a beautifully stripped down ballad that pairs Zooey Deschanel’s voice against the stark accompaniment of the piano, adding to the heartbreaking sound of loneliness in the quietly affective lyrics.  The singer and songwriter is in an equally reflective mood on the thirteenth track “Shadow of Love,” a breakup song that is melancholic for the way that time passes after the end of a relationship.  The album closes with the haunting “Reprise (I Could’ve Been Your Girl),” borrowing the name of the fourth track to finish the record on a contemplative note, like a relationship that fades away with the end of summer.

I’ve always liked the sound of She & Him, and fans of the duo are not going to be disappointed by Volume 3, a collection of songs that goes down just as smoothly as their previous outings.  Zooey Deschanel’s voice is wonderful throughout the album, providing the perfect soundtrack to the summer days that lie ahead, both in the brighter and more reflective moments.  With the season finale of New Girl tomorrow night, this is also the perfect thing to tide us all over until the show returns in the fall.

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