In spite of the numerical title, this is actually the fourth outing for the indie pop duo headed up by television and cinema’s Zooey Deschanel, and is a welcome addition to the group’s catalogue of heart-ache with a chewy bubblegum centre.
Deschanel (vocals, piano, ukulele) and M. Ward (guitar, vocals, production) initially met in 2006 when they both worked on a film by director Martin Hynes entitled The Go-Getters, and were asked to perform a duet together to be played over the closing credits of the film. It was through this collaboration that the duo formed a strong musical bond which would eventually lead to the release of their début album Volume 1 under the musical moniker of She & Him.
The band is often joined in the studio and on tour by session musicians to fill in the blanks in their line-up, and allows for a much more widely diversified sound that many other indie-pop groups could only strive for. This rotation of musicians creates a wide smorgasbord of sounds and influences which Deschanel can dip into as easily as a magician into a hat full of tricks.
Volume 3 is, as would be expected from the kooky Deschanel, a quirky and fun outing which will be sure to keep returning fans happy; as well as giving new converts something to enjoy, without needing to know the She & Him back catalogue. Most surprisingly of all, as always with this group, is the lyrical depth on display; the shiny pop façade is quickly dissipated by the oft-poetic lyrics telling of heartbreak and loneliness such as:
But I’m stronger than the picture that you took before you left
In the light, it faded to white.
In the light, the colors turn to white.
(“Turn To White”)
Lyrics such as these seem to allow listeners an insight into the ever-whirring psyches of these talented and prolific musicians; the poeticism of the group is startlingly brazen when one delves deeper than the toe-tapping outer layer of quirky indie-pop lacquer.
The album is impressive in its ability to work as a complete body of work, a sound-scape of interests, influences and homages, as well as the songs working individually as stonking good pop-tunes. It’s easy to hear elements of the groups’ inspiration throughout this album, from influences as diverse as The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Belle & Sebastian, The Smiths, and perhaps even notes of Weezer and Fountains of Wayne. Aside from these more obvious stylistic choices, the duo also seems to have a wide and deep understanding of the art of classic American song-writing; the group could, indeed, be timeless. They belong to no era, but could just as easily be at home in 1963 as they are in 2013.
Songs such as the opener ‘I’ve Got Your Number, Son’ and the single release ‘I Could’ve Been Your Girl’ as She & Him on traditional eccentric form, giving punchy, catchy phrasing and ever-impressive guitar work from M. Ward. These songs may stand out upon the initial listen; however, upon a deeper analysis of the album, it’s interesting to note that the more subtle numbers begin to creep up to the fore. Tunes such as ‘Baby’, ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘London’ all become fast favourites and stick in the mind as more maturely crafted songs both musically and lyrically.
It’s surprising to see how much the group has grown and developed in the years since 2006 and their four albums (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, A Very She & Him Christmas, & Vol. 3) seem to tell a narrative of musical growth, development and understanding.
Deschanel’s vocals have strengthened and become a more knowing representation of her kooky TV personality, and M. Ward has gone from a talented musician to a near virtuoso of the power-pop homage.
This album has fast become a favourite of mine and if you’re looking for a good listen from start to finish, look no farther than the She & Him back catalogue.