She & Him are nothing if not an aesthetic wonder – before lyricist and frontwoman Zooey Deschanel was Fox’s “New Girl,” she was still a full-time “manic pixie dream girl” in just about every previous movie role. In between these acting projects, Deschanel masterminded this oldies-nostalgia act with producer M. Ward that relies almost as much on her “adorkable” quirks as her on-screen career does. While still heavy on the gimmicks (like putting the redundant “stereo” label on the cover of any recording released after the invention of the CD), Volume 3 reminds us that Deschanel is, indeed, a real person. Here’s five hidden gems that subtly cut through She & Him’s fetish for Jenny Lewis‘ bangs and black-and-white, while maintaining a sunny doo-wop vibe.
Deschanel’s year-long divorce proceedings from Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard were finalized in December of 2012, so it’s unsurprising that Volume 3 still relates in a big way. In the album’s opening lyrics, Zooey calls out both sides of the ex-couple as celebs who function off a steady diet of “attention and affection,” without which, they’d turn into dreaded “nobodies.” Maybe she really does “have his number:” [LISTEN]
What’s a man without all the attention?
Well, he’s just a man
Why do you think no one will hear what you’ve got to say?
Who am I without all your affection?
I’m a nobody, too.
This straightforward, “we know we shouldn’t, but we’re still going to hookup” song slips under the radar as another vapid novelty track, but throws in a pair of lines that could possibly be a grand statement on hipsterism or intellectual elitism. Or, it could be about the games everyone plays in getting laid, if not just an admission of Deschanel’s brain hurting from using logic instead of calculated fairy wisdom. Judging by the overall message, we’re going with the hook-up mind-games and anti-snob version: [LISTEN]
I don’t know what I’m doing this for
All I know is I’m tired of being clever
Everybody’s clever these days
When reading into these lyrics with the mind of a conspiracy theorist, there’s a wealth of material to play with. Aforementioned ex-hubby Ben Gibbard covered Beat Happening’s track “Indian Summer” for the Kurt Cobain documentary About a Son, featuring the lines: “We’ll come back for Indian summer/And go our separate ways.” Here, Deschanel sees the line as a “sign of (turmoil) to come,” due to her flighty nature and the “wicked things” that both partners do: [LISTEN]
Indian summer, I caught a glimpse of things to come
Racing to finish, I never think before I run
To the good and wicked things you do.
She & Him take to new heights the Kate Nash-like combination of “poodle-skirt-danceable” music and dark lyrics, save for a couple clichés shared with Deschanel’s most recent Pantene commercial. Whether about Gibbard, someone else or a fictitious third party, Deschanel’s cutesy annunciation on the contrasting bleak lines “Your love is a blessed curse/Actually, bad gets worse, supernaturally” are somewhat aggressive, but not to the level of these pseudo-empathetic attacks: [LISTEN]
You seem to be having fun
Raising your glass to no one, no one
What’s a girl to do when something’s haunting you again?
You always love a race
Placing your bets on no one, no one
What am I to do when something’s haunting you again?
Though the catchy chorus is nonsensically self-contradicting, Deschanel shows some modern-day open-relationship independence cred, by singing that she doesn’t want to play “mother” to a neurotic guy with wandering eyes. The decidedly un-50’s theme shows that while she’s okay with his (temporary) philandering, she won’t babysit him while he’s being irresponsible: [LISTEN]
And I am not holding back now
And I’ll give you some slack now
And hope you come around
And I don’t wanna fence you
I know that I sense you
Have someone else’s heart