Originally published to The New University May 2013
After filming a good two seasons of FOX’s “The New Girl,” She & Him’s leading woman Zooey Deschanel decides to dive back into the music world with partner M. Ward for “She & Him Volume Three” (May 7 on Merge Records). Since the last album (in 2011), Deschanel has gone through a divorce with Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, allowing this to possibly channel her drive for other creative projects (“The New Girl” and Hellogiggles.com) and, quite evidently, “Volume Three.” To those familiar with the duo, the album does not present much difference from the last. Expect to hear a lot of doo-wops, snazzy and well thrown-in riffs from M. Ward and cries for love from Deschanel.
However, we can breathe a sigh of relief with the first few tracks. Deschanel’s artificial country singing voice has disappeared. Here, we find a touch of authenticity as she belts her heart out with “Never Wanted Your Love” and “I Could Have Been Your Girl,” both of which possibly allude to her 2011 divorce.
In this album, M. Ward lends his voice to the track “Baby,” yet remains silent for the rest of the album. It causes me to question why he doesn’t do this more often for the tracks, as his vocals positively add to the 1950s-esque style that the pair has put in much effort to create.
The entire album is one that could have definitely sold well had it been released 60 years ago. It croons, it cries, and does so in a way that puts those listening in a pleasant mood.
“I’ve Got Your Number, Son” is the opening track that begs for people to get up and dance.
Later on, “Volume Three” takes a strangely international turn. “Sunday Girl” features French lyrics that Deschanel belts out repeatedly. It causes me to wonder whether she actually knows French or does this for the purposes of the song. Following that track, surprisingly enough, is “London,” which follows a message similar to Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Again, Deschanel cries and croons for the solace of the city.
However, the album ends with a reprise of “I Could’ve Been Your Girl,” which consists of solely instrumental and background choirs. With this, a somewhat haunting reminder of the song’s message repeats itself. Again, I cannot tear this away from Deschanel’s divorce. How can you separate the two, really? Emotions, music … clearly there’s a correlation.
Overall, the album is a characteristic move of Deschanel and M. Ward, as they have come to find comfort in their blend of quirky and old-fashioned pop. It is the image they have projected and, to put it colloquially, it’s just plain cutesy. After releasing “A Very She & Him Christmas,” She & Him couldn’t have left us hanging simply on impressions of reworked Christmas carols and sing-alongs. I will admit that I can tolerate it more now that Deschanel has said goodbye to the country girl accent (for now, at least).