She & Him: Volume 2


She & Him’s debut was released to much critical acclaim in 2008. But for all of the fanfare surrounding the rootsy collaboration and the surprise that thespian Zooey Deschanel did what other actress-turned-singers could not – release quality music – there was always one major criticism of the album. The detractors said that the album was unoriginal (a common complaint of roots music) and cited that it relied on three covers.

She & Him’s detractors were few and with the release of Volume Two, they are probably still unconvinced. Of the album’s 13 songs, 11 were penned by Deschanel but it still has that vintage feel, as though you expect to hear a needle occasionally scratching the old record only to remember that this is a CD from 2010.

Volume Two doesn’t have a song as immediately catchy as “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” from their debut, but this is an album that grows stronger with each listen. It is like a time capsule containing a long-gone era of innocence, where even the saddest songs convey a sense of optimism, both tonally and lyrically. “Thieves” laments a failed relationship by stating that “love like ours is terrible news,” but it is set to sunny pop music reminiscent of early Roy Orbison.

On their second release, Deschanel and M. Ward stray slightly from the minimalism of their debut, with complex backing vocals and swirling string sections. The most ambitious track is the bluesy “Home.” With its myriad shifts in tempo and tone, this is how it would sound if Regina Spektor wrote a country song. Closing out the disc is the morose “If You Can’t Sleep,” featuring hummed background vocals that recall a gospel song at a funeral. Even in that song, there is a sense of hope. Though it speaks of separation, Deschanel tells a lost lover “in your dreams I’ll touch your cheek.”
he & Him may not be laying any new ground here, but that’s fine with me. Instead they pay homage to a simpler time that America would do well to revisit.

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