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It’s 2013, and we all have Zooey Deschanel’s game figured out. One can hardly hear the word “quirky” in the media these days without her name appearing somewhere in proximity. In standard demure naivete, she flits across the screen every week as the title character in her sitcom New Girl, polka dot dresses and all, drumming up the wildest fantasies of closet hipsters everywhere who loved “(500) Days Of Summer.” For the cynical music fan, one wouldn’t expect much more out of She & Him than they would out of Jared Leto’s goth-prog fare in a standard 30 Seconds To Mars record. Like Leto, Deschanel writes a majority (11 out of 14 songs on this record) of her material. Unlike Leto, this is more than a vanity project, and she displays a certain amount of nuance that, while not disappointing the expectations of the group’s twee-biting fanbase, betrays sincerity and not the least amount of genuine infatuation with Phil Spector.

Deschanel’s songwriting here is as strong as ever. On the opening track “I’ve Got Your Number Son” her sunny-eyed optimism turns martyred infatuation into a weapon aimed at the object of her affection, complemented by an incessant, pounding piano to lend to a sense of restlessness. Lead single “Never Wanted You Love” conveys hurt and insecurity with a sense that even if she’s down for now, sheer hope and a knowing smile will eventually land her on top. Her alt-country vocal stylings add to the sense that the narrator in most of these breakup songs only becomes stronger and more pleasant through heartbreak. As for the other 50% of She & Him, M. Ward couldn’t hide his love for Pet Sounds- era Beach Boys production even if he wanted to. His instrumental arrangements are tighter and fuller than ever, blooming around Deschanel’s centerpiece vocals with ease.

For those who haven’t yet given Deschanel’s artistic merit a fair shake, this record is as good a place as any to start.

Recommended Tracks: I’ve Got Your Number Son, Never Wanted Your Love, Turn To White, Somebody Sweet To Talk To

GRADE: 7/10