She & Him’s Volume 3 puts Zooey Deschanel front and center and loses some of the balance that made the duo’s previous records appealing.
Deschanel has always been more visible than her partner, but previous records played like a duet. Even when M. Ward wasn’t singing, his gorgeous compositions were level with Deschanel’s vocals. On Volume 3, he rarely sings and his music rarely breaks out of the background.
For her part, Deschanel is stronger singer. She holds her own on “London,” a vocal and piano duet that leaves her voice exposed. Her weakness is still the low register. Whenever she dips low on songs like “Turn to White” and “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” the tone sounds forced and cartoony.
The lyrics of Volume 3 are slightly more substantial than previous volumes. While still broad and cute, they at least hint at some influence from Deschanel’s real life. “I like you, but you think too much,” she sings on “Together,” “I don’t want to be your mother or your crutch.”
“Together” should be a pleasing live sing-a-long. Other standout tracks include the cover of “Sunday Girl” (especially once Deschanel begins singing in French) and M. Ward’s one turn at singing solo on “Baby.”
For sunny 60s and 70s pop sounds, there are few bands out there doing it as well as She & Him; however, one has to wonder how sustainable this side project will be if the duo continues to transition from “She & Him” to “She (as produced by Him).”
Volume 3 is available today on Merge Records.