She & Him, Volume Two (Merge Records, 2010)

Singer/pianist Zooey Deschanel and multi-instrumentalist/producer M. Ward first paired up as She & Him in 2008. Volume One was a pleasant, well-received collection of songs heavily rooted in the American side of the pop music of the early sixties. Deschannel may not have a superior voice, but the same endearing qualities that work for her as an actress also work for her as a singer. Now Deschanel and Ward are back with Volume Two which, for better or worse, is nearly identical to its predecessor.

On one hand, She & Him demonstrate that there's enough substance to the style of female-centered pop songs of the early to mid sixties (think Phil Specter's production and Carole King's songwriting) that the approach can be embraced nearly fifty years later and still sound fresh. If anything, their sound is a welcome alternative to the more electronic and less innocent songs that have dominated the pop charts for a while. Having said that, though, Volume Two will sound a little too familiar to anybody who's heard Volume One. Deschanel's songs all have a catchy charm to them, but they blend together after a while. Nothing on Volume Two really stuck with me.

Volume Two is a nice enough record. I suppose people who really enjoyed She & Him's first record will like this as well, even if they know exactly what to expect. Safe predictability isn't always a good thing, though.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott

"In The Sun"

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