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First Listen: She & Him, 'Volume 3'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson
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Autumn de Wilde

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For what was once a fairly mysterious project, She & Him has stuck to a straightforward formula. The "She" is actress Zooey Deschanel, the "Him" is M. Ward, and there's a pecking order: The occasional cover aside, these are Deschanel's songs, sung almost entirely in Deschanel's voice, and Ward is no longer viewed as some sort of Svengali. Where he once lent a certain amount of cachet and cover to She & Him ā€” back when Deschanel was often presumed to be a carpetbagging actress slumming in the studio ā€” it's now understood that he functions largely as an arranger. He's crucial to She & Him's sound, but he's a background player.

Volume 3, out May 7, adheres to a few formulas in its own right: Playful, soft, sunnily melancholy and springlike, its songs once again subsist on the strength of their own agreeability. Timelessness has long been key to She & Him's charm, and indeed, Volume 3 seems to be floating through AM speakers at all times. But the album also demonstrates that there's more to Deschanel than her doe-eyed New Girl persona would suggest: She & Him is led by a confident singer-songwriter who, on records and elsewhere, knows exactly what she's doing.

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