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Album review: She & Him's 'Volume Two'

March 22, 2010 |  2:02 pm
Sheandhim Actors nursing dreams of musical glory owe Zooey Deschanel gratitude: With "Volume One," Deschanel and M. Ward's lovable 2008 debut as She & Him, the quirky indie-film star handily refuted the widespread notion that success on the silver screen precludes success in the recording studio. Singing songs she wrote (plus a few smartly chosen covers) over crafty retro-pop arrangements by Ward, Deschanel revealed not only a voice worth hearing but a creative sensibility as complete as any non-moonlighter's.

That sensibility remains strong on "Volume Two," which offers 13 more tunes that sound like they could've come from a collection of forgotten '60s-era B-sides. In "Thieves" Deschanel gives her voice a melancholy country lilt as Ward pairs shimmering acoustic guitars with mournful oldies-radio strings.

"Home" is a pitch-perfect piece of Carole King-style piano pop, and a version of Skeeter Davis' "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" has a sweetly shuffling country-soul groove.

As impressively specific as those sonic ideas are, though, Deschanel's songwriting here is less distinctive than it was on "Volume One." Too many of the tracks bleed together in a well-appointed mush of major-minor melodies and hand-me-down lyrics about the inevitability of heartbreak. And when the songs do make an impression, as in "Don't Look Back" and "In the Sun," it's often because they're overloaded with the kind of kiddie-culture cutesiness that Deschanel the actress always cuts with a dose of grown-up sarcasm.

 -- Mikael Wood

She & Him 
"Volume Two" 
(Merge) 
Two stars
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