Review: She & Him – Volume 2

Artist: She & Him
Album: Volume 2
Genre: Indie/Folk
Label: Merge

The return of She & Him, the folk duo comprised of actress turned singer Zooey Deschanel and modern folk God M. Ward, is one many indie fans have been hoping for since the pair’s 2008 debut. Emerging out of relatively nowhere other than their respected individual careers, Deschanel’s 1950’s croon was so perfectly accompanied by Ward on Volume One that the pair became an instant “must love” for anyone in the folk scene. However, a much more sugar-sweet pop style on the just released Volume Two may steer fans of the group’s more emotive efforts in the opposite direction.

Taking heavy notes from the more sensible pop styles of the 1950’s,60’s, and early 70’s, Volume Two has a sound fans of the first release will instantly connect with. Deschanel’s soft croon never ceases to have an inviting allure to it that helps to pull listeners into early tracks like “Thieves” or the repetitive, yet catchy “Don’t Look Back.” The songs contain more lines about heartache, desire, and relationships veiled in lingo from pop culture past which begins to feel a bit too familiar pretty early on. Even the impressive covers [NRBQ’s “Ridin in My Car” and Skeeter Davis’ “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”], while beautifully reworked to better match the angelic softness of Deschanel’s voice, still begin to feel like worn territory a bit early. I’m not saying it isn’t good, I’m simply stating it’s nothing we haven’t heard before [by the same pair]. I will note though, “If You Can’t Sleep,” the a cappella closing track is more a wonderful dream than song. Deschanel’s warm tones will undoubtedly bring chills each and every time you play this track, it truly is her gem on the record.

While the vocals and lyrics may have passing appeal, there is a continual beacon of hope though and it comes from the ability of M. Ward to not only accompany Deschanel perfectly, but also orchestrate some of the most emotive yet simple song structures around. Whether its the musical equivalent to the first day of Summer that is “In The Sun,” the Western vibe of “Lingering Still,” or the sock hop dance that is “Over It Over Again,” Ward’s compositions take what may be worn lyrical territory and elevate to a whole new level. Where Zooey took front and center on Volume One for her relatively new outing in music, it’s quite clear Ward is the one best showcased on Two.

The pairing of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward is one no one can deny. The blend of Deschanel’s angelic croon with the genius composition skills of Ward creates a world of sound that is entirely them, yet buried in history and proven pop infrastructure. While Volume 2 doesn’t leave you with the lasting effects of their initial effort, there is definitely something here you need to hear. Take a break from the 808’s, auto-tune, neon, and skinny jeans for just 44 minutes and see how simple, yet engrossing pop music can be.

Score: 7/10
Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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