Tuesday, May 21, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: She & Him "Volume 3"

RECORD REVIEW
She & Him
Volume 3
________________________

Even if this record
sucked, I could have
at least enjoyed the
photos of Zooey 
included in the CD
insert. Fortunately, 
it's a masterpiece
— easily worth 10x
what I paid for it this 
morning at Starbucks.
________________________

Recorded at LA's legendary Sound Factory, Volume 3 is the latest and third non-holiday record from the dynamic duo, She & Him. The musical embodiment of the Reese's slogan, "Two great tastes that taste great together," She & Him combines the magical pop songs and angelic voice of Zooey Deschanel (vocals and keyboards) with the Big Al Anderson-inspired guitar work and production genius of M. Ward. In fact, if I could track him down, I'd show up at Ward's house and offer him a festive-looking congratulatory cupcake and a Hallmark greeting card with an inscription thanking him for knowing how to produce a pop record — vocals in the front, guitars in the back!

Volume 3 oozes 14 pure pop treasures — 11 of Zooey's and three covers. Simply put, it's fresh and fun, sweet and innocent, and so retro that it sounds new — reminiscent of early Blondie — before they, well, you know.

But a duo does not (necessarily) a band make. And Volume 3 features performances from a stellar cast of studio cats. Possessing a firm grasp of the "less is more" philosophy, Scott McPherson provides perfect drum tracks throughout the record and I personally was delighted to see bassist Joey Spampinato credited several times in the liner notes (NRBQ reference #2).

The opening track, "I've Got Your Number, Son," had me hooked at the :04 mark. And at :21, I knew that this was just the beginning of what was surely going to be a very long and monogamous love affair.

"Never Wanted Your Love" brought back fond memories of rock and roll trailblazer, Genya Ravan, circa 1978. Genya Ravan? Really? How is this even possible? Whatever planet Zooey and M. come from, I wanna go there, tonight!

One of only three non-Zooey-penned tracks, "Baby" (Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, George Morton)  could easily have been featured in the pages of my third all-time favorite book, POP SONGWRITING 101: It's About the Melody, Stupid — this track is a golden gem.

In "I Could Have Been Your Girl," Zooey channels Debbie Harry (à la "11:59") — another major highlight. And speaking of Blondie (again), The She & Him version of Chris Stein's "Sunday Girl" is a perfect remake. Dare I say that it's better than the original? Okay, well it's at least as great — even though I still don't know French.

YES - with sprinkles, please!
Another wonderful moment is the delicate and sultry remake of Harry Noble's 1952 classic, "Hold  Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."

And the winner of Volume 3's "Best of the Batch" award goes to... "Somebody Sweet to Talk To." It's catchy, hooky, infectious — let's sing along, kids... I got the pieces if you've got the time!

In closing, a simple consumer warning: Volume 3 is laced with aural cocaine! Of course this could just be an endearing metaphor, but I must con- fess that I've now been on a three-day She & Him binger. I refuse to open the blinds or answer my door — and I can't feel my face. Now, play it again! Play it again! I said — "PLAY IT AGAIN!"

-Christopher Long
(May 2013)


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