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.
With the pair being such hot commodities, it’s a surprise that this third instalment surfaced at all. Their upcoming third long-player, snappily entitled Volume 3, perhaps unsurprisingly, follows on seamlessly from Volume 1 and Volume 2. It’s not much of an advancement in terms of theme or style or sound – there’s slightly more of a ’50s/’60s lean, and the production is slightly slicker – but on the whole, it may as well be the third disc of what is essentially one album released over five years. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.
‘I’ve Got Your Number, Son’ is polished ’60s pop, full of doe-eyed sheen and cooing backing singers – it verges on the twee side, but She & Him always have. These are modern love songs, but there’s more eloquence and subtlety (part of the reason it sounds so dated), and not one reference to doing rudeys. It’s all about the tickle-fights, the staring at each other until your eyes shrivel up and all the lovey-dovey things that are great if you’re a participant, but sickening if you’re a spectator. ‘I Could’ve Been Your Girl’ sounds unmistakably like an oldie, with glorious melodies and sweeping string surges. M. Ward’s guitar has a lo-fi, surfy tinge, but on the whole it’s strict smooth pop and a fantastic base for the vocals to launch from.
Everything slots together nicely on the LP. There’s barely anything out of place. Every lump or bump has been ironed out during the production process. Volume 3 Emulates ’50s/’60s pop so well, it’s all too easy to completely forget that this is a record released half a century later; Deschanel’s stunning vocal performance is effervescent and dainty, and she does a brilliant job of articulating quaint passion and that iconic ’50s whimsy. Ward’s contributions are often light, positive indie-pop sounds, and even the more solemn lyrical moments are filled with optimism. The way he strums his six-string compliments the vocals swimmingly.
One of the most notable detractions from the strict mid-20th Century aura is a cover of both the English and French versions of Blondie‘s ‘Sunday Girl‘ (Deschanel’s impression of Debbie Harry is spot-on, if a little restrained). There’s less New Wave-y/punk-flecked guitars, instead Ward opts for rock’n'roll jangles and twee handclaps; there’s less bite, but a much stronger doo-wop timbre. There’s also a cover of Karen Chandler‘s 1952 hit, ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me‘. It’s a sublime, swooning acoustic ballad of simple love, adorned with grooving bass licks, broad strings and tranquil guitar riffing.
There’ll be plenty of fawning over this album for the sheer fact Deschanel is in it: the indie darling and Internet fodder incites biased joy wherever she treads, partly due to her spearheading the ‘adorkable’ movement. People may be falling over themselves to say that this is a perfect album, which it’s not, but they’re in the right ballpark. It is a good record, brimming with lavish, romantic nostalgipop that will rekindle your love for Grease, neckerchiefs and pomade. Sandra Dee would have this on repeat, that’s a certainty.