She & Him: Volume 3

She & Him’s Volume 3 was one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Regular readers know I’m a big fan of She & Him’s first two albums and have loved Zooey Deschanel’s voice since her Elf days. So it’s with a heavy heart that I must give Volume 3 a less than positive review.

I tried, really I did. I’ve played the album on repeat for weeks and told myself I was being overly cynical. I took it on sunny day drives and endeavored to just enjoy the music without thinking about this review. But every single time I play it, the first half of the album just annoys me.

Zooey’s voice is still very pretty and M Ward’s instrumentation is lush as always, but the problems lies in the lyrical structure of certain tracks.

The opener “I’ve Got Your Number, Son” isn’t terrible, but I always hit skip half way through tracks 2 through 4 due to their repetitive nature. “Never Wanted Your Love” and “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” were ok as singles, but I find them extremely irksome in the context of the album – where they are lumped together with the gooey “Baby.” It feels like a paint-by-numbers approach to songwriting – write one verse and one chorus, then put ’em on a loop for the duration of the track. Rinse and repeat for the next four songs. Honestly, after hearing One Mile An Hour‘s beautiful, thoughtful debut, Volume 3‘s shallow construct sadly reminded me of the South Park episode in which manatees randomly cobble together Family Guy shows.

But perhaps that’s overly harsh for what’s obviously meant to be a light bit o’ pop. The new dance party video for “I Could’ve Been Your Girl,” which you can watch below, is cute at least.

The second half of the album is a completely different story and emphasizes why I dislike the beginning so much. When She & Him are good, they are really, really good. The album’s strength lies in the lower key melodies, which showcase both the lovely depth of Zooey’s voice and the intricacies of Ward’s playing.

The pretty piano ballad “London” is by far the standout track.

I also adore “Turn to White,” which features the heart-punch lyric “I’m stronger than the picture that you took before you left.”

Other highlights are the cover of “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” and “Snow Queen.”

So I at least recommend buying those four mp3s. I just don’t see myself listening to the entire Volume 3 album as much as I have its spectacular predecessors – particularly Volume Two, which has become my default road trip CD.

Buy @ Amazon

She & Him Official Site

She & Him: Another New Song!

She & Him (a.k.a. New Girl star Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward) are sharing another song from their upcoming album, Volume 3. She & Him thankfully don’t seem to be deviating from their summery retro pop sound. If it ain’t broke and all that. You can stream “I Could’ve Been Your Girl” below and their first single, “Never Wanted Your Love,” is still streamable in our March post. Volume 3 will be released on May 7th.

Pre-Order @ Amazon

She & Him Official Site

She & Him: New Album & Song!

She & Him (a.k.a. Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward) will release Volume 3 on May 7th. An album of 11 new, original songs and 3 covers, Volume 3 will feature guest appearances by Mike Watt, Tilly & the Wall and members of Rilo Kiley and Devotchka. You can hear the album’s first sunny single, “Never Wanted Your Love,” and view the album’s track list below…

Volume 3 Tracklist

1. I’ve Got Your Number, Son
2. Never Wanted Your Love
3. Baby
4. I Could’ve Been Your Girl
5. Turn to White
6. Somebody Sweet to Talk To
7. Something’s Haunting You
8. Together
9. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
10. Snow Queen
11. Sunday Girl
12. London
13. Shadow of Love
14. Reprise (I Could’ve Been Your Girl)

Pre-Order @ Amazon

She & Him Official Site

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

It’s that time again! Following are my Top 25 Albums of 2010. Like ’em or not, these are the albums I’ve personally enjoyed and listened to most often in the past year. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…

*Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, which would have been #2 on this list had it been released this year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

25. Sheila Nicholls: Songs from the Bardo

…I was so excited to see Sheila Nicholls name on a new press release!…genre-hopping…moody experience…Sheila’s lovely vocals drive every song

Sheila Nicholls – Bardo (mp3)*
Sheila Nicholls – Natural Law (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

24. The Concretes: WYWH

…sultry and atmospheric…blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

23. Heart: Red Velvet Car

…a step back from the pop-rock endeavors of recent decades in favor of a multi-instrumental style…perfect display of Ann’s astounding vocal power and Nancy’s searing guitar riffs.

Buy @ Amazon

22. Warner Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano

…The deep resonance of Warner’s cello is juxtaposed and intertwined with the emotive peels of Nuzova’s piano, resulting in a sound full of somber beauty and classical romance.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Screaming Females: Castle Talk

…loud, exhilarating, wailing punk rockers…a spectacular cacophony of ferocious growls, frenzied shrieks, scorching guitar licks and tempestuous rhythm

Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

20. Brooke Fraser: Flags

…a collection of subtle folk-influenced melodies and pretty, infectious pop fleshed out with innovative arrangements and all wrapped up in Brooke’s warm voice

Buy @ Amazon

19. Agent Ribbons: Chateau Crone

…churns atmospheric retro pop-rock with modern rock riffs, handclap percussion, and girl group harmony. The result is somewhere between The Zombies and The Shangri-Las.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Creed Bratton: Bounce Back

…With the help of his backing band The 3DVB’s and his The Office co-star Ed Helms, Creed has made an unusual, funny, funky, and all around awesome album.

Creed Bratton – Rubber Tree (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

17. Robert Plant: Band of Joy

…an almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana

Buy @ Amazon

16. Danielle Ate the Sandwich: Two Bedroom Apartment

…The combination of that kind of sweetly self-deprecating humor and Danielle’s clear, warm voice along with some very pretty acoustic melodies make this album a charmer.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Robert Stallman: The Nightingale in Love

…Whether you’re a classical aficionado or simply enjoy pretty instrumental music, this lovely album is definitely one to try…Simply put, The Nightingale in Love is beautiful. So very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Sade: Soldier of Love

…an album everyone should hear…strong artistic integrity combined with an exquisitely exotic voice and elegant melodies give Sade’s music a rare grace and beauty.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Katharine McPhee: Unbroken

…an excellent mix of infectious pop melodies and singer-songwriter acoustics…Her multi-faceted voice effortlessly flows from impressive Divaesque acrobatics to a warmer, relaxed charm reminiscent of classic Carole King.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Loreena McKennitt: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

…brimming with a heady mix of Celtic and folk instrumentation…Loreena’s supernatural soprano is on gorgeous display

Buy @ Amazon

11. The Bird & The Bee: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates

…tribute to 1980s pop icons Hall & Oates is no parody, instead this is a sincere and happy homage to one of my favorite guilty pleasure bands…the perfect soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

10. Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies

…a wide variety of charming, serene covers by various indie acts…The entire Sing Me To Sleep album flows together to create a lovely, gentle mood.

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

9. The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

…one of the most excellent, enjoyable rock albums I’ve heard in years…infectious but substantial rock – settled delciously somewhere between arena and roots.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Spiral

…Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails…I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you.

Buy @ Amazon

7. The Innocence Mission: My Room in Trees

…pristinely pretty…Sparse arrangements are coupled with poetic lyrics full of scenic imagery and bittersweet emotion – all carried by the lovely soprano of Karen Peris.

The Innocence Mission – God is Love (mp3)*
The Innocence Mission – Happy Mondays (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

6. Moreland & Arbuckle: Flood

…If Moreland & Arbuckle’s upcoming album Flood is any indication, 2010 is gonna be a great year for music…this mix of Delta blues, folk, country, soul, and rock is one wild ride.

Buy @ Amazon

5. She & Him: Volume Two

…another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation…a breezy pop soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Kate Miller-Heidke: Curiouser

…like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. Mainstream pop fans will definitely enjoy this disc, as will those searching for catchy tunes with lyrical substance.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Janelle Monáe: The Archandroid

…Conceptually and musically, this multi-facted, genre-mashing masterpiece has everything you could want in an album and then some. And Janelle’s supernatural vocal range is as chameleonic as the songs she sings.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

…Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop…yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown

…transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell & Bon Iver – Wait for Me (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

*all mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps

She & Him: Volume Two

Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are back She & Him: Volume Two, the aptly titled followup to She & Him: Volume One (one of my Top Albums of 2008). Volume Two is certainly the “feel-good album” that Zooey calls it. The duo have recorded another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation.

I want to be where your heart is home,
I want to see you with the light in the morning

An advance of Volume Two was leaked online by NPR weeks ago, but I waited for the proper review copy from the label – which didn’t arrive until after the release date. I don’t know if the prolonged anticipation and hype raised my expectations too high or if it simply suffered by comparison to the magnificent albums that’ve already been released this year, but my initial reaction was one of disappointment. So much so I originally wrote a cynical review comparing it to lackluster sequels that “continue the franchise but neither surpass nor fully recapture the magic of the original.”

But wait, I was so wrong! I decided to give the album another chance without the weight of preconceptions and comparisons to its predecessor. And instead of listening to the digital promo on my computer, I burned it to CD and took it for a drive. This time around I was able to appreciate this album for what it is rather than what it isn’t. And then I fell in love with it.

Whereas Volume One was an intimate, romantic album centered on Zooey’s voice, Volume Two is a breezy pop soundtrack for summer. The songs, vocals, and instrumentation are upbeat and harmonious, often calling to mind classic girl pop groups. While it’s not a great departure from the first album (hence the title), it has a much lighter mood.

Volume Two features original songs penned by Zooey Deschanel as well as two covers – NRBQ’s “Ridin’ In My Car” and the Skeeter Davis song “Gonna Get Along Without You.” Zooey again takes lead vocal, though this time her voice melts more into the arrangements. The first single “In the Sun” features guest vocals by Tilly and the Wall, and it’s definitely one of the standout tracks. My personal favorites are the sweet love song “Home” and the a capella finale “If You Can Sleep.”

You can stream the entire album for free at NPR.

She & Him – Thieves (mp3 expired) *
She & Him – In the Sun (mp3 expired) *

*mp3s provided by & posted w/ permission of Merge Records

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She & Him - Volume Two

She & Him Official Site