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2010 sophomore release from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. She & Him make music for an eternal springtime, when the temperature is warm enough to go riding with the top (or at least the windows) rolled down and the radio turned up. They occupy an alternate universe where the saddest of songs feel as warm as sun showers; the rain may be coming down, but somewhere nearby, everything looks bright. What began as a fascinating, no-strings attached collaboration on 2008's Volume One has evolved into a bona fide touring band, and She & Him are here to stay. Deschanel and Ward are as comfortable and complementary a musical pair as Les Paul and Mary Ford; hearing them again on Volume Two feels like getting together with two old friends. This time, the harmonies have grown more angelically layered, the string arrangements more dramatic, the songwriting even sharper and more confident. But as with Volume One, the prevailing mood is bittersweet, dreamy, and romantic.
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Top Customer Reviews
It has a different sound, I find, from Volume One. Volume Two is not quite as sunny or relaxed-sounding. Most of the songs are more complex, and many of them have a marginally more mournful sound than in Volume One.
Overall, this album is filled with thoughtful, well-written songs from start to finish.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Is this a bad thing? Every listener will have a different opinion, but what it really comes down to is how you like your pop music, and whether you were really expecting any stretches in musical boundaries for Ward and Deschanel. To begin with, She & Him were never a revolutionary idea, merely two friends recalling the sounds of their youth and recreating them with the kind of steady hand and fine point that love and care brings along. They accomplished that effortlessly on their debut, and the results are more or less the same here. "In The Sun" is the same kind of guaranteed hit single (if one lived in the `60s) that "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?" was, although it lacks the blistering guitar solo that made the latter so much fun. Songs like "Don't Look Back," the gentle "Lingering Still," and the swelling, bubbly tones of opener "Thieves" all call to mind the kind of Brill Building via Nashville blend that She & Him performed with so much flair on Volume One, and really nothing more. The fact at the heart of everything on Volume Two is that everything here could just as easily have been on Volume One.
But what made Volume One such a great record was its time capsule-esque quality, how it captured the sound of a bygone era and made it in the here and now without a hitch, and Volume Two, for all its (some would say necessary) similarity to its predecessor, repeats that feat remarkably well. While listening to the repetitive titular refrain of "Over It Over Again" near the end of the record, I was frustrated, disappointed with the seeming sameness of the record. It's a classic case of overlooking the forest for the trees. Volume Two is a beautifully crafted record, as more listens prove - so long as you accept that this is what She & Him are and have been, and that this is what She & Him will likely always be. NRBQ cover "Ridin' In My Car" is a delightful beach cruiser of a song, with a rare Ward appearance the icing on the cake. "Me and You" takes the duo's understated country appreciation to a serene, gorgeous place, all wobbly pedal steel and Deschanel's woodsy, `70s folk singer vibe. And "Home" might be She & Him's best song yet, a graceful swoon of a song floating in breezy strings and airy drums, the kind of cool, carefree California rock `n roll that Deschanel epitomizes.
There won't be that same flashbulb that went on after hearing Volume One, that shock that this was a modern working actress and her pal and not some long-lost Beach Boy groupies. For better and for worse, She & Him can't go back to the beginning, but they can do a fine job of recreating it. This is lighthearted, carefree pop music, but it's also surprisingly enchanting and, well, so damn catchy. There's nothing clumsy about this, no famous actress hooking up with a talented songwriter to write meaningless songs - just a guy and a girl inviting you to share in their mutual loves a second time. And for all its delicate curves, for all the "ooh-ahs" and multilayered harmonies, for all the guitars on strings and bouncy piano and crisp drums, that's just exactly what it is: a love for good, old-fashioned pop music, pure and simple.
The album definitely has a familiar vibe; somewhere between Beach Boys and Beatles territory, leaving room only for Deschanel's charming vocal prowess and M. Ward's endlessly creative musical understanding. First single "In the Sun" is a respectable starting point for a new listener-- Simple and catchy in tune, and quirky and cute in lyric. The two also tackle a few classic covers (NRBQ's "Ridin' in My Car" and Skeeter Davis's "Gonna Get Along Without You Now"), and these are wonderful renditions that a new set of ears would find appealing.
Other original, Deschanel-penned tunes stand out as well; the sunny, schoolgirl-esque "Lingering Still," the heartbreakingly intimate "Thieves," and the melodically and lyrically clever "Brand New Shoes." In comparison to Volume One material, these songs aren't revolutionary, but they are still very strong tunes that benefit from repeat listens.
A very small few of the tracks, however, have a few itches left unscratched. Pieces like "Over It Over Again" and "Home" are decent tunes, but lack either a boost in lyrical creativity or melodic progression, respectively. "Don't Look Back" also takes a few listens to crack-- The piano arrangement is an obvious recreation of the legendary "In My Life" (Lennon/McCartney) composition, and the chorus melody is borderline repetitive. These small misses, though, do little to weigh the album down as a whole.
Overall, M. Ward's production is much more polished this time around (for better, or for worse), and the collaboration seems more natural and confident. Deschanel's vocal "folk" side is noticeably less forced than in previous recordings, while the direction of the music is still very vintage and colorful.
Well done, my She and Him. After three consecutive listens, I am eager for another. I smell a hint of summer bliss just around the corner...
Talented singer/songwriter/producer Ward stays in the background allowing Ms. Deschanel to put his shine to shame (sorry bout stealing a Belle and Sebastian lyric; it fit so well.) Zooey, as other reviewers have mentioned, has a soft shimmering vocal style reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra. Ward adds layers of smart musical values and vocal harmonizing producing enough happy moments to enhance one's mood and outlook. Like the glimmer of light on a small stream, the music here is pretty but not deep.
The obvious highlights include the first single, In the Sun and the equally infectious Over it Over Again. I actually prefer the quieter Nashville/folk influenced moments presented in songs like Me & You and Sing.
With the weather getting warmer and car tops going down, She & Him provide a perfect soundtrack for spring and the rapidly approaching heat waves of summer. In these tough economic times there's nothing wrong with finding the simpler pleasures in life and enjoying them. Add She & Him to your list of inexpensive yet effective ways to put a smile on your face.
1. Thieves (4:08) - From the first notes, you know this album isn't much of a change from the previous. You also notice that Zooey Deschanel's voice has improved and flows more naturally than it did on the first album. The instrumentals seem crisper and M. Ward sings more on this album, as evident by his backing vocals.
2. In the Sun (2:51) - Immediately you know this song is going to be fun, and it is. It's the most upbeat song on the album, and my absolute favorite. Zooey's voice sounds so smooth and shines its way through the chorus, with background vocals, this time, being provided by special guests Tilly and the Wall. M.'s instrumentals provide most of the fun to the song.
3. Don't Look Back (3:23) - This has some of the best beginning notes out of any She & Him. Why? It's one of the best She & Him songs! While the chorus is far from the best, the verses absolutely shine, with the lyrics and Zooey's voice, along with M.'s instrumentals. Definite favorite!
4. Ridin' In My Car (3:15) - A cover of an NRBQ song from the 60's, She & Him spices it up a notch with their fiery composition. Not the best on the album, but not the worst. Unusually, it's better than the original!
5. Lingering Still (3:02) - This is a weird song, as the vocals are pop-influenced, but the instrumentals are definitely twanged with a heavy country vibe. It does, however, turn out to be a fantastic song, and earns its place as one of the best on the album. Towards the end, the song slows down for a few seconds and then regains speed as M. plays away it away, finally collaborating with Zooey on vocals until the end of the song.
6. Me and You (3:20) - Right off the bat, you can tell things are about to slow down a little. And they do. Zooey sings of a (I assume former) lover who has "Gotta be kind to yourself." M. provides background vocals yet again. It seems his voice is being used far more on Volume Two than it was on Volume One, and for the better.
7. Gonna Get Along Without You Now (2:32) - Things speed up a little here as Zooey harmonizes and then sings the title of the song. Zooey, herself, provides the background vocals here, giving M. a break. There's not really much to this song, but it's a relaxing tune.
8. Home (4:41) - The longest song She & Him have recorded so far, it's definitely a great one. The vocals and instrumentals seem to really shine during this number, as if She & Him are trying to prove something, which they definitely have. Nothing much else to say; good song.
9. I'm Gonna Make It Better (3:31) - The most country-like song on the album has some of the best lyrics on the albums. "It all comes full circle, yes it all comes crashing down on you" and "faces are not always what they seem" being some examples.
10. Sing (3:13) - The only reference in any of these songs is a modern one: "Sitting at home and watching Cribs" seems out of place in a song heavily influenced by songs of the 50's, before TVs were around, let alone MTV. Zooey is at her smokiest in this song, adding a mysterious aura to her voice.
11. Over It Again (3:30) - This song is reminiscent of Volume One's songs, feeling like it should have belonged on the first album. It's probably my least favorite on the album, but still a decent track. Zooey kind of sings whiny in this song, and it doesn't really work for her.
12. Brand New Shoes (3:04) - The slowest song on the album, and probably my favorite. It's unlike any other song She & Him has sung, yet alike others, and it's actually really awesome.
13. 13. If You Can't Sleep (2:49) - The last track begins with some gentle humming from Zooey and M., and leads into The song is slow like a lullaby, and plays out like that throughout. A nice closing out track.
A more solid release than their first, this one deserves Four and a Half out of Five Stars.