She & Him – Volume Two
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Record Label: Merge
Zooey Deschanel is adorable. Other than being the sweetest thing with a style that seems straight out of an Anthropolige catalog, she also married the ideal “indie” kid (Ben Gibbard) and starred as the heartbreaker in everyone’s favorite “hip” movie of 2009 ((500) Days of Summer). Basically, Deschanel is the cutie-pie of our dreams. She is also the dynamic vocal lead of the retro-pop duo, She & Him. Along with M. Ward, they released Volume One in the spring of 2008. But after hearing (the equally clever title) follow-up, Volume Two, we more than like-like Deschanel.
While it doesn’t differentiate much in sound, what sets Volume Two apart from Volume One is Deschanel’s improved confidence in being the lead, as well as in her songwriting (Volume Two only features two cover songs). She owns the songs now, and it’s heard loud and clear. The sunny disposition first heard on Volume One is still ever-so-present here; while the lyrics may be about breakups and jerks, it still sounds like Deschanel is singing with a smile. The opening track, “Thieves,” is delightfully breezy, even if Deschanel mourns over the loss of love.
The upbeat “In The Sun” is bound to be a fan favorite, as Ward’s composition here beautifully sets up a lovely hook (which is backed by Tilly and the Wall). The charming “Don’t Look Back” is reminiscent of one Regina Spektor, while the twangy “Lingering Still” sways like a lullaby. The irresistibly dreamy “Me And You” is full of “la-da-da-da’s,” as it sounds like it came straight out of the AM radio in your ’63 Cadillac.
Deschanel’s voice makes breaking up sound sweet on the Skeeter Davis cover, “Gonna Get Along Without You Now.” Even the guy who the song is about would sing along. On the playful “Over It Over Again,” Deschanel wonders out loud, “Why do I always want sock it to you hard?” By this point of the album, you realize that Volume Two has taken the themes of Volume One and put them on a much grander stage. The absolute highlight coming in the form of the a cappella closer, “If You Can’t Sleep.” Deschanel has our full attention here, as she draws us in and reassures us like a small child. It’s transcendently beautiful.
Deschanel makes her presence known much more on Volume Two, especially since Ward is more than content to fade into the background with his folk-rock arrangements. But this isn’t a M. Ward album featuring Deschanel on vocals. Rather, Ward arranges his music to mesh with Deschanel’s style. When his voice appears in the NRBQ cover, “Ridin’ In My Car,” it’s a nice counter to Deschanel’s mezzo-soprano. In the end, Volume Two is a showcase of Deschanel’s and Ward’s best traits – Ward’s production and composition and Deschanel’s intelligence and magnetism.