Release Date: May 7, 2013
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Country
Since the inception of She & Him back in 2006, Zooey Deschanel has gone from Hollywood’s best-kept secret to a run-of-the-mill sitcom star. While Deschanel has become overexposed on the small screen, Volume 3, the latest offering from the “New Girl” and M. Ward reminds us all that Deschanel’s got some pipes…and a couple of serious grudges.
Always looking backward to the sunny sounds of the '60s, She & Him often feel like a band out of time, a pair of pop dreamers born too late to be a part of the musical scene they've painstakingly crafted a pastiche of with their third album, Volume 3. Like the previous two volumes, the album finds collaborators Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward diving headfirst into the sunny, lovestruck sounds of Brill Building pop with a splash of country twang for good measure.
“All I know is that I’m tired of being clever/Everybody’s clever these days,” sings Zooey Deschanel on “Never Wanted Your Love,” from Volume 3, her latest release with M. Ward under the moniker She & Him. At first blush, the line suggests self-aware irony. Of course she’s clever, but clever is so boring, right? It would be easy to dismiss the work of She & Him as some type of dilettante dalliance, a frivolous extension of the coy, innocent ingénue Deschanel portrays on TV.
In a recent column at the Week, film critic Monika Bartyzel made a convincing argument that it's time to retire the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl. " Critiquing a particularly hollow and noxious stereotypical female character that was cropping up in films like Garden State and Elizabethtown, Nathin Rabin coined the popular term back in 2007. But awash in an endless stream of analysis, over-analysis, supercuts, and admittedly pretty hilarious parody Twitter accounts, Bartyzel now thinks the term has “outlived its usefulness and become a part of the very marginalizing trend that it was designed to rally against.
Aside from a hit-and-miss Christmas record, She & Him have been out of the loop for a while. We’ve not had a proper record from the indie-folk/pop/country duo since 2010, primarily because the two members have so many other projects: Zooey Deschanel has her acting career (who else loves New Girl?) to focus on, and M. Ward is sticking his sticky little fingers into lots of other musical pies.
While some acts thrive on reinvention and experimentation, other groups keep their general sound the same, focusing on strong songwriting and bits of variation to keep each album going strong. This strategy has kept the duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward successful through their first two albums and proves to be just as effective for their third. If you haven’t listened to She & Him, their sound is a throwback to the days of the 1950s and early 1960s, complete with vocal harmonies, classic guitar work and songs about love.
She & HimVolume 3(Merge)Rating: 3.5 out of 5 starsStream the album She may be the New Girl on television, but Zooey Deschanel is getting to be an old pro at this music thing. Any complaints about a Hollywood starlet interloping on indie rock’s heralded ground have long since died away, or at least they should have, since Deshcanel and indie maestro M. Ward are now on their third go-round with their retrolicious project She & Him.
Volume 3 marks yet another nostalgic pop installment from indie magnates M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel. Unlike many acts that struggle to evolve and delve deeper into their craft, She & Him remains remarkably unchanged—a stalwart of catchy, light-hearted, and airy love songs. Deschanel's youthfully innocent vocals channel singers of earlier eras (e.g.
Over the last week, She and Him’s breezy, sunny, retro-pop Volume 3 did something special for a Merge Records album: it beat out the Jay-Z executive-produced The Great Gatsby soundtrack to emerge as the #1 release of the week, on both iTunes and Amazon. The duo of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward has consistently risen through the charts across their seven-year partnership, and they are finally emerging on top, with the release of their third collection of original songs (and three covers), their most effortless and fully realized songs yet.
Less than three seconds into the third record from She & Him - the ingeniously titled Volume 3 - and I’m saddened. Not because a few years ago I thought Zooey Deschanel was the cutest, coolest and most brilliant woman in the world – she’s become a fringe’ed caricature of kook that I now find quite offensive, and that’s upsetting. Not sad though.
“It seems that Courbet had a friend who used to wake up in the night yelling: ‘I want to judge, I want to judge. ’ It’s amazing how people like judging. Judgement is being passed everywhere, all the time.
There was a great moment in the kooky indie rom-com, (500) Days of Summer – the film that cemented Zooey Deschanel’s reputation as the leader of the “adorkable” set – when her character, Summer, pushes past the drunks at a karaoke bar to sing Nancy Sinatra’s Sugar Town. Her giggling tone and irresistible inflections played it exactly right; it was breezy, casual and fun – like she was just having a laugh, lost in the moment. The first She & Him album came out a year before that film, in 2008, and was of a similar vein; She and Him – M Ward – playing around, having fun with some ’60s-influenced pop.
Zooey Deschanel, the actress, is often criticized for playing the same character in every film and TV show, so much so that there's even a Saturday Night Live skit devoted to her zany, quirky roles. Zooey Deschanel, the musician, is gradually sliding down the same rabbit hole. Volume 3 reunites Deschanel with folk rocker M. Ward, but from songwriting to performance there's a heavier emphasis on the She than the Him.
Despite persistent cries that she remains too “precious” or “twee,” Zooey Deschanel has established herself as a versatile talent. Certain feminists may distrust her overt girlishness, but her choice of self-presentation is clearly her prerogative rather than something she has to earn. Deschanel is a stellar comic actress, playing Jess with a marked canniness behind her dinner-plate eyes in New Girl, and her collaborations with M.
Review Summary: You know, if we fix up this car, it could be make-out city, you know that.It’s hard to tell whether She & Him have moved past the point of novelty or remain tarnished by it. On the one hand, the group’s collection of records has had nary a “bad” song on it. Forgettable, at times? Yes. Uninspiring, at others? Almost certainly, but throughout Volume One and Volume Two and now Volume Three the pair have maintained a reliable pop professionalism that has occasionally created sparks of black-and-white brilliance, an unerring portrait of a time when “I could’ve been your girl / you could’ve been my four-leaf clover,” was all that was needed for one starry-eyed girl to tell the heartbreaker in his varsity jacket.
Zooey Deschanel and M Ward are on to their third album as She & Him (not counting their Christmas efforts), and there's not much in the way of surprises – this is swinging country-pop with a girl-group backbone, as has always been their way. The problem is that this sickly concoction is often overcooked. I've Got Your Number, Son has a nice line in Loretta Lynn lyrical sass, but it's drenched in horns and backing harmonies – as elsewhere, there's simply so much going on that it chips away at any potential charm.
Zooey Deschanel slowly but surely made a mark for herself in film with odd bits and bobs in small independent films. It was in the 2003 Christmas film Elf where she had the chance to demonstrate her singing chops. She had a refreshingly different type of smooth jazz voice that would have complemented pop music perfectly. So, when she teamed up with M.
As She & Him, actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-guitarist M. Ward share a specific brand of chemistry. She’s the irrepressible spirit of the indie-pop duo, and he tends to work in the shadows as the driving musical force. One couldn’t exist without the other, and that’s been clear since they debuted with 2008’s “Volume One.” That record established their blueprint: a wistful stroll through American pop music where Les Paul & Mary Ford rub elbows with the Beach Boys and the Kinks.
With a frenetic combined itinerary that spans sitcoms, solo material and alt-rock super groups it’s surprising this cute indie duo have any time to corner a recording studio for this particular project. This latest release is their third album of original material, comprising eleven songs written by Zooey Deschanel as well as three covers. As with their previous records, M Ward’s singing input is kept to a minimum, left to provide guitar and production foil.Deschanel has a likeable honeyed voice not unlike Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, a keenly felt influence, most notably on the catchy ‘Together’, a rare upbeat moment where subtle percussion meets a funky horn led groove.
When it comes to pop cultural commentary, the internet does a spectacular job of making choirs out of disparate solo voices. Professionals and amateurs alike praise and ridicule, in blaring unison, seconds after a TV episode airs, a song drops, or a movie premieres. We, the chatterers within these electronic ones and zeros, live to recommend challenging cable shows, to endorse promising new bands, to champion offbeat indie films.