She & Him has added fourteen more songs to a growing collection of folky, ’60s-tinged originals and covers. The retro-pop duo today released Volume 3, their fourth full-length record together (their last album was A Very She & Him Christmas in 2011).
Comprising singer-songwriter and producer M. Ward and actress-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel, She & Him have found a signature sound in the gentle, folky style that pairs Deschanel’s luminous voice with lyrics that are clever, melancholy and whimsical in turn.
Judging from singles “Never Wanted Your Love” and “I Could’ve Been Your Girl,” Volume 3 promises to follow in a similar vein. Both new songs manage to be wistful and upbeat at once, a line Deschanel blithely walks on nearly every She & Him track.
“I never wanted your love, but I needed it all,” she sings on the first single, while “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” finds her reminiscing, “If I could do it over, I’d send you the pillow that I cry on” over a warm, bouncy instrumental.
Volume 3 features 11 Deschanel-penned originals and three covers. Deschanel writes She & Him’s original songs while Ward arranges. Her musical contribution is somewhat unusual since she was a fairly successful actress before her singer-songwriter days and is now known for films like (500) Days of Summer and her network television hit, New Girl. Deschanel, who only started sharing her songs when Ward asked her to, showed she could sing when she serenaded audiences in 2003’s Elf, but the first She & Him album, Volume One in 2008, was definitely a surprise.
“So she has an acting career, too?” asked a recent Volume 3 review from the Montreal Gazette.
“Dumb question, but such is the ease with which Zooey Deschanel slips into her pure-pop compositions that it’s strangely easy to forget her day job.”
She & Him’s indie, folky style, which seems to be here to stay, is a far cry from the typical actress-turned-singer pop album. Deschanel’s precious lyrics and honeyed vocals can be cloying on occasion, but for the most part She & Him’s summery, retro tracks are organic and unselfconscious. They’re the real deal.
It’s worth noting that Volume 3 is the first album besides the Christmas record that features Deschanel and Ward on the cover instead of illustrations. Perhaps in wanting to make her name as a musician aside from her actress persona, Deschanel purposely chose to omit her image from the first two albums. If so, this fourth album definitely makes her point.
Deschanel found success and — perhaps more importantly — credibility as a singer. Here are five more actresses who, for better or for worse, attempted music.
1. Taylor Momsen
The Gossip Girl actress surprises with The Pretty Reckless — her band’s name and an apt description of Momsen’s singing persona. On debut Light Me Up in 2011, Momsen reveals an old soul voice and hard-edged storytelling style that belie her age (she was 16 at the time). The actress, who began her career with a commercial at age three, released single “Kill Me” in December but hasn’t yet announced plans for a second album.
2. Selena Gomez
Gomez is yet another Disney darling who started churning out albums soon after her TV career took off. Let’s hope she keeps her head on straight. The Wizards of Waverly Place actress has three albums under her band name, Selena Gomez & The Scene, and recently released new single “Come and Get It.”
The less said about her voice the better — friend and fellow Disney star Demi Lovato has far stronger pipes — but Gomez has enjoyed solid commercial success. Debut album Kiss and Tell and follow up A Year Without Rain were both certified gold and hits such as “Naturally” and “Love You Like a Love Song” enjoyed time on the Top 40. Her band’s latest album, When the Sun Goes Down, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
3. Minnie Driver
Known for her roles in Good Will Hunting and Return to Me, Driver was actually a member of a band named Puff, Rocks and Brown early in her acting career. She released Everything I’ve Got in My Pocket in 2004 and Seastories in 2007. Driver reveals a gentle, singer-songwriter style and a wistful voice on the pop tracks but nothing really remarkable.
4. Scarlett Johansson
Johansson successfully made the delicate transition from child star to adult actress, but her forays into the music scene have been less noteworthy. Her debut album, Anywhere I Lay My Head, comprised mostly Tom Waits covers and at best received mixed reviews.
NME lauded the tracks as “elegiac modern classics in-the-making” and noted Johansson’s ability to “inhabit each track like a film role.” But Rolling Stone called Johansson’s voice “unremarkable” while Britain’s Mojo magazine complained that the songs were “fussy and unforgettable.”
The Lost in Translation actress didn’t follow the album with a full-on music career; her latest musical endeavor is 2009’s Break Up, a collaboration with Pete Yorn.
5. Emmy Rossum
One of the rare actresses with a bona fide musical background, Rossum is opera-trained and showed off her range in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera in 2004. Oddly enough, she followed up her turn as Christine with the ambient, layered vocals of her first album, Inside Out. On the 2007 record, Rossum’s lyric soprano is barely heard amid the layers upon layers of vocals and reverberating instruments on each track.
Rossum, who recently starred in the third season of Showtime’s Shameless, released Sentimental Journey this spring. The 12-song collection of standards from the 1920s to 1960s lacks any modern touches and offers nothing new to music, but at least Rossum’s voice can be heard this time around.