“Volume 3″ by She and Him

It’s pretty easy to criticize Zooey Deschanel for being the stereotypical manic pixie girl, especially considering her relentless quirkiness, her “adorkable” television show, and the cutesy pop music she makes with M. Ward and their band, She and Him. While it seems unfair to criticize someone for being, erm, too pleasant, what are you gonna do? Out of all of the aforementioned Deschanel projects, She and Him is probably the most well-liked. Since their debut in 2008, She and Him have crafted a pleasant concoction of early 60s pop melodies and sweet girl group harmonies that has always been a nice listen.

She and Him are simply good at what they do, which is consistently delivering their brand of happy, flower pop just in time for the first day of spring and sunshine. Volume 3 their (you guessed it) third main album (not counting their affable Christmas album) is more of the same: Zooey sings, harmonizes with herself, and plays the ukulele while M. Ward provides some out-of-place vocals and some brilliant lead guitar. It’s all very par for the course with what you’d expect for She and Him to the point where its not readily apparent that there is any improvement over the past two albums.

The album begins with the upbeat combo of “I’ve Got Your Number, Son” and “Never Wanted Your Love”. Besides the sharp string backing in the latter, the duo are predictable and they sound like they could be off of any of the other She and Him albums, though it does sound like the production value has been upped. The drums and hand-clapped percussions sound more crisp, the harmonies sweeter and tighter and there is a glossy sheen over most of the album.

However, a more in-depth listen will reveal that there are some moments of inspired musicality that were not found in the past two albums. In particular the vibraphone solo in “Something’s Haunting You”, the double time rush of “Snow Queen” and the subtle flourishes of a horn section and a grooving, funk-inspired guitar in “Together” really add to their somewhat one dimensional sound. Deschanel is, as always, on-point with her vocals, especially in their cover of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”.

In fact, the entire second half of the album really picks up and proves that the duo have elevated their understanding of their craft. Ironically, the only weak point of the latter half is their cover of Blondie’s “Sunday Girl” which is pleasant enough, but how could anyone possibly compare to Debbie’s new wave cool on the original? Bonus points to Zooey though, for nailing the song’s French verses with typical aplomb (Blondie only released a version with these verses on their greatest hits compilations).

Volume 3, like all of She and Him’s other albums, is a pleasant listen that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a smart pop album filled with just enough catchy hooks and interesting ideas to keep you listening, but you may not remember most of it by the time you’re finished. It is neither challenging nor incredibly memorable; its hard to imagine anyone going out of their way to actively love or hate it. That isn’t to say the songs are boring, they just simply are not ambitiously and fervently trying to capture your attention. Yet again, Deschanel and Ward have created an album that is pleasant and well-written; a good choice to put on during a lazy summer afternoon.

By Stevie Dunbar

If you liked this, check out:
“Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

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