She & Him have old soul sound

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M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel have created yet another timeless collection of pop songs on She & Him “Volume 3,” released Tuesday, May 7.

The retro sound is as authentic as it was on their last three albums – Volumes One and Two and an album of Christmas music released last year – and has stepped up the tone and maturity of the warmly sweet melodies that have defined the She & Him sound.

Since the release of 2008’s “Volume One,” they each have maintained solo careers in television, movies and music while recording and touring together. Deschanel is best known for her television show "New Girl," and who could forget her memorable role in "Elf" and the bathroom duet of "Baby its Cold Outside" with Will Ferrell. M. Ward is a prolific singer-songwriter who has performed with Monsters of Folk and has six solo records under his belt, the most recent being "A Wasteland Companion."

She & Him 'Volume 3' She & Him 'Volume 3'

As the primary songwriter of the band, Deschanel wrote 11 of the 14 tracks while the other three are covers. The three songs she didn't pen are "Baby," "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," and "Sunday Girl."

Ward, who often records his solo albums on reel-to-reel tape was responsible for the album’s production.

The sound they create together is beautifully rich and universally appealing. The breezy pop tunes are bursting with west coast flair. The addition of horns is a natural fit. When I saw them perform in 2010 at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, their simple arrangement captivated a diverse outdoor audience. These songs just make you want to listen.

If you've ever heard just one She & Him song you won't be disappointed by the lack of lovesick lyrics and occasional guitar flairs from Ward. Perhaps Deschanel's recent divorce from Benjamin Gibbard contributed to her tone but her lyrics don’t seem jaded. 

"Never Wanted Your Love" is the hand-clapping upbeat second track is classic She & Him and features Deschanel channeling 60s Nashville vibes.  She sings, "I never wanted your love, but I needed it all," in a way that expresses the stumbling blocks of love in a lighthearted way. It's much more refreshing than say, a Taylor Swift breakup song.

Although we often hear Deschanel's vocals harmonized with either layers of her own voice or female backup singers, Ward provides accompaniment and the two trade verses on "Baby," as well as a few other tracks.

"I Could've Been Your Girl," is among the best songs on the album, and there are a few of them. It's got a fully encompassing and electric sound that is pitch-perfect She & Him. It's also reprised at the end of the album with strings and the melody sung in vocal ohhs and ahhs.

"Cause, I could've been your girl
and you could have been
my four leaf clover
If I could do it over
I'd send you the pillow that I cry on."
- "I Could've Been Your Girl."

"Somebody Sweet to Talk to," is a fun jam that starts off surprisingly mellow with the songstress playing keyboard, and then shifts gears 30 seconds in. Deschanel turns her voice up an octave and really punches it up.

Deschanel not only sings and writes the lyrics for nearly every song but she is also a multi-instrumentalist providing ukulele on the ballad, "Turn to White," and one of my favorite instruments, the vibraphone, on "Something's Hunting You."

If I had to choose one favorite, "Together" would definitely be the one. It sounds different from the rest of the songs and it also has a universal message. It starts off with a funky guitar riff and saxophone and has an offbeat breakdown bridge that leads up to the chorus; "We all go through it together/ and we all go at it alone."

It's not just Deschanel singing in French on "Sunday Girl," and the song "London" that make the duo sound worldly. The She & Him that first attracted fans to their throwback style five years ago has improved dramatically in that time. It's a fitting fourth album and now the duo has an expanded repertoire to make live performances more dynamic.

She & Him performed on "Late Show with David Letterman" Friday, May 10 and on Tuesday, July 9 the band will come to the Mann Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia with special guests Camera Obscura. See here for tickets.

She & Him “Volume 3” is available from the She & Him store, iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Read the High Note with Shaun Smith every Saturday on www.shorenewstoday.com 


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