What do Minnie Driver, Scarlett Johansson and Zooey Deschanel have in common? Other than being actresses they have all successfully turned their hand to music. Zooey Deschanel has just released ‘Volume 3.’ It’s her third album (fourth if you include their Christmas LP) under the moniker of She & Him. (‘him’ being singer-songwriter M. Ward.)
The idea of an actress with a singing career often comes across as a vanity project but let me reassure you this is no half-hearted hobby. She may be better known for playing kooky characters in ‘Elf’, ‘New Girl’ and ‘(500) Days of Summer’ but Deschanel has written and composed all of the original tracks on ‘Volume Three.’
For this latest record her musical partner, M. Ward, takes a back seat in a supporting role that is closer to that of a producer than a band member. In this role he allows the record to sound very relaxed and almost loose in places. It is a fine balancing act and an achievement that he ensured the end product comes off as leisurely rather than amateurish.
This is the type of music that divides audiences. If you are the sort of person that enjoys dreamy 1960′s pop music, then this is your soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon. If that sounds dull and dated to you, this might be a record you should avoid because what is sweet and charming to one person can easily seem twee and irritating to another. ‘Volume 3’ unashamedly sits on that line.
In the past most of Deschanel’s songs have been about love and heartbreak and that trend continues here almost without exception. Opening track ‘I’ve Got Your Number, Son’ is a confident nod towards classic country artists of yesteryear. ‘Turn to White’ is a highlight with a slower Bacharach-esque influence tingeing the melody. Much of the middle section is pleasant enough but without standout tracks. Weaker moments do occur in places including ‘Snow Queen’ and a listless cover of ‘Sunday Girl.’ Original track ‘London’ is fairly dreary but the cover of Karen Chandler’s ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me’ is a delight. The dreamy reprise of ‘I Could’ve Been Your Girl’ is a beautiful way to end any record.
This is a confident album with a honey drenched delivery. Compared to their previous work the album’s tone and style is exactly the same. So much so that most of the tracks are interchangeable between records. In this sense the title ‘Volume 3′ is perfectly suited. This is not a young band keen to grow and develop their sound. Nor is it an old act looking for a new audience. Retro pop is good because it works already; there is no need to mix things up. This is not a band that wants or needs to change things around or evolve. They do what they like and they like what they do – and I like it too.
This article was first posted on May 13, 2013