Twice as nice
By Matt Fink
She & Him’s debut was a simple affair. Zooey Deschanel’s homespun grace and M. Ward’s unobtrusive production made for a winning combination—which means they risked a lot by making a followup album as complex and ambitious as this one. On Volume Two, swirling strings and lush backing vocals underscore Deschanel’s increasingly sophisticated songwriting. She plays the dewy-eyed ingénue a bit too faithfully at times, but there is no denying her legitimacy as a tunesmith, divvying her set between bouncy piano-pop, folk-flavored sing-alongs and orchestral anthems. In lesser hands, the American Graffiti-styled themes of star-crossed lovers and summer nights would drown in their own sincerity. Here, they provide a pleasant escape to a mythical America of endless horizons and youthful resilience—not such a bad place to be in 2010.
Need some spice
By Rachel Dovey
With its nostalgic covers, wall-of-sound harmonies and sunny imagery, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s latest is a beguiling memory-picnic through a land where everyone is forgiving, self-deprecating and pleasant. “Well, alright / It’s okay / We all get the slips sometimes every day / I’ll just keep it to myself in the sun,” Deschanel and her guest chorus of Tilly and the Wall members croon to a melodic waterfall of riffs. This stuff-it-away-and-smile attitude permeates the bulk of the album, so when Deschanel’s voice dips to a quiet near-sob at the end of Skeeter Davis cover “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” it’s as refreshing as a drink of water after a cotton-candy binge. But moments like this are few and far between on this fluffy, sugar-spun album. The smiling-through-tears undercurrent of ‘60s pop is lost in Deschanel’s taffy-like vocals, and though the album evokes memories of a more pleasant time, they seem far too sweet to be real.