album reviews

She & Him
Volume 3
Merge (2013)

Kindred spirits: Patsy Cline, Dean & Britta, the Beach Boys.

The indie-pop collaboration She & Him sounds, on paper, like it shouldn't work. Quirky actress Zooey Deschanel ("She") takes the spotlight, singing and writing summery pop songs, while established singer-songwriter M. Ward ("Him") takes a subtler role as multi-instrumentalist and producer.

The surprise for She & Him skeptics is that this collaboration continues to succeed (the group's latest is "Volume 3"), since Deschanel is actually a competent songwriter for this style. She effortlessly captures the sunny, breezy sounds of the 1960s; her swaying songs "Something's Haunting You" and "I Could've Been Your Girl" hold up seamlessly next to a cover of Harry Noble's iconic "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me".

But so much sweetness — particularly with such pouty lyrics and vocals — can grow tedious. Deschanel's grating vocals on "Somebody Sweet to Talk To" can't be masked by the song's lilting melody, and the uber-catchy "Together" gets lost in a sea of similar-sounding tunes.

With all that carefree breeziness, the more interesting songs on "Volume 3" are those that sound markedly different from She & Him's standard fare. A cover of Blondie's "Sunday Girl" has extra pep thanks to its quick, clipped vocals, while the smoky piano ballad "London" stands out against the rest of the album's lushly orchestrated sound.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 5 July 2013.
.: Volume 3 on