She & Him Delight Me & You

In the music video for “In the Sun,” the lead single of She & Him’s second full-length album “Volume Two,” Zooey Deschanel is seen gallivanting inside the hallways and gym of a high school while M. Ward lays low in the library.  These scenes very well characterize the playful melodies yet cool production on “Volume Two”.  Where She & Him’s 2008 debut, “Volume One,” was more of an introduction to music audiences of Deschanel’s and Ward’s newly christened collaboration, “Volume Two” expands on the pleasant surprises that said album brought. “Volume One”, as a whole, always seemed to have that feeling of being a one-off project – these collaborations, or any actor-turned-musician side-project, usually veers toward the wrong path. With that said, “Volume One” remains one of the exceptions to this notion and can be considered one of the best indie-pop albums in recent memory.

The appropriate disposition for a follow-up then would be one that is more complete and one that justifies the duo as proper band. “Volume Two” meets these requirements wholeheartedly and continues the overall success that both Deschanel (“500 Days of Summer”) and Ward (Monsters of Folk super group, 2009’s Hold Time) have been accumulating in the recent years. Music listeners should feel fortunate for their talents to have crossed paths.  The album leads off with an immediate standout in “Thieves” followed by the aforementioned “In the Sun.”  Both tracks together make springtime in Southern California sound like it has indeed arrived.  “Lingering Still,” first introduced to audiences on their 2008 tour, is properly recorded here and explicitly showcases Deschanel as a true and genuine voice in music today.

The themes of a She & Him album are not uncommon: heartbreak and romance.  When it works best – in a song – is when there is banter between vocalists as seen on “Ridin’ in My Car.”  M. Ward’s arrangements definitely touch upon genres that are uncommon, but the strengths on this album are how they are mixed together to compliment the vocal and writing talents of Ms. Zooey. “Ridin’ in my Car” mixes doo-wop with the type of alt-country sound M. Ward is known to create in his solo work. “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” and “Sing” might have traces to not only gospel but Belle and Sebastian and Camera Obscura; “Brand New Shoes” is reminiscent of a Julie Delpy written waltz.

Adjectives will best describe to curious listeners as to what She & Him truly sound like: summery, quaint, charming, nostalgic and sunny.  “Volume Two” continues the refreshing nature that the Deschanel/Ward pairing has brought us just in time for the California warmth to come back home. Finally, for those still weary of the actor/musician crossover aspect of the She & Him project, a simple quote from Deschanel’s title character, Summer, in her breakthrough film can sum up any discussion on “Volume Two:” “You have good taste in music.”