It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Zooey Deschanel was the newcomer, wowing film audiences. Her musical side-project, She & Him, with alt-folk master M. Ward, has never been taken that seriously. Now she is a powerhouse and you ought to be paying attention to Volume 3 as well. Of course, leading something of a pixie-girl revolution means there are a lot of twee moments on this album, and you can imagine some bright-eyed swaying going on. Waiting by the phone, crying into pillows and collecting four-leaf clovers is going to make most people’s stomachs turn.
Look beyond this, though, and you will find that, musically, M. Ward has given Zooey a brilliant pallet to paint with. The sound has now progressed into a well-polished ode to 50s and 60s pop. It isn’t bubblegum and is hardly ever sexual; surely a positive thing considering the over-sexualised music thrust at teenagers these days. ‘Baby’ sets an early tone of shoop-shooping backing vocals, and sees Ward himself getting in on the vocal action.
She hasn’t got the pipes of Adele or the soulful husk of Winehouse, but Zooey gives her all to every song and is actually more cutting with her words between the squishy teenage-crush clichés. ‘I’ve Got Your Number, Son’ has her calling the shots: “I’m getting restless looking at you…You’re not a man who can understand anyone but you”. Wholly competent and actually a joy to listen to, her voice is alluring and a break from the modern equivalent.
The choruses of most songs on this album will give you a headache after a while but linger with you for a long time. Hook-laden tracks like ‘Turn to White’ and ‘Somebody Sweet to Talk to’ seem lazy and meandering in the verses, but pull you back in with chants of “I want you!” ‘Something’s Haunting You’ nears the next step for this duo. It’s a little darker and more realistic, but all the hard work is undone with the jolly tinkle of a xylophone. However, on ‘Together’ you find yourself fully on-board with the phrase: “We all go through it together but we all go at it alone”.
There isn’t anything musically profound here, it’s just an altogether more cohesive and better produced sound than before, adding an orchestral cushion and the odd trumpet blast. Everything takes a back seat to Zooey, and why not? She has a hit TV show (the sponsor from which might prompt viewers to buy the Blondie cover here), but you shouldn’t write this pairing off. If you can put aside the Hollywood image, there is a thoroughly enjoyable album in it for you.