“Volume 3″ as charming as preceding albums

“Volume 3” earns four out of five stars.



Parker Munson, Writer

Have you ever seen a basket full of kittens? Remember how that felt? The moment your heart filled to the brim with an inexplicable gladness, almost to the point of bursting, until a long and high-pitched “aww” offered you satisfaction? That comes close to describing “Volume 3” by She & Him. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward return with yet another endearing — nay, adorable — addition to their perpetual collection of timeless love songs. This time around, Deschanel plants her feet firmly in center stage as the spotlight shifts its full focus upon the charmingly quirky singer-songwriter, proving that she’s got the pipes to back up her character.


As the story goes, Deschanel met Ward in 2007 while filming “The Go-Getter,” and they collaborated on a cover song for the movie’s end credits. The two bonded over their shared affinity for folk and country tunes of old, and it wasn’t long before they did something about it. “Volume 1” was released in 2008 and named the best album of the year by Paste Magazine. Two years later, “Volume 2” dropped and flew comparatively under the radar. Then in 2011, with the release of “A Very She & Him Christmas” and the launch of Deschanel’s Fox sitcom “New Girl,” the band was thrust right back into the spotlight.

What started off as an eccentric collaboration between actress and folk singer has taken shape into something much more than a simple novelty. “Volume 3” proves not only that the duo has come to do serious business but, more importantly, that love and all its subsequent emotions are still amiable subject matter for popular songs. Deschanel’s romantic lyricism is a talent unfortunately forgotten by most modern female songwriters, and it harkens back to the likes of Peggy Lee or Ella Fitzgerald. It is elegant and sophisticated, yet playful and pure, leaving little to be desired in its relaxed profundity and originality.


In “Volume 3” Deschanel boldly confronts the microphone with a dominating presence. Unlike in the last two volumes, where she may have found herself somewhat sheepishly floating through the mix, it is clear that she means business this time. Perhaps this newfound sincerity is a result of her recent divorce from indie god and Death Cab For Cutie mastermind Ben Gibbard. At any rate, it suits her well and makes for a much more vulnerable listening experience that has arguably been lacking from their discography. Ward, being a true gentleman, holds the door for Deschanel as she leads the songs confidently in the direction she desires. That being said, he is the primary composer of the tunes and arranges them with experienced precision. This fluid dynamic makes the two so irresistibly captivating.

The album’s leadoff single, “Never Wanted Your Love,” is a powerfully jocular torch song, backed by a symphony of strings and held together by an effortlessly melancholy guitar lead. Deschanel laments the complexities of love as she bellows, “I never wanted your love / But I needed it all.” Creating a stark contrast is the sweetly sad “London,” which features a doleful Deschanel brooding alone at the piano, bemoaning the heartache of isolation. This sort of complicated entanglement of affection and reproach weaves lazily throughout the album with an unexaggerated ease, making it listenable but nonetheless heartfelt.

No other modern artist has quite mastered the skill of being so consistently cute while maintaining sincerity like She & Him; “Volume 3” shows that the band is as committed to their craft as they are to their image — their classy, adorable, cute little image.

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