Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are back my friends, back as She & Him with another whimsical, folk-pop musical collaboration aptly titled Volume Two (their first release together in 2008 was, if you missed it, Volume One).
They are both indie darlings in their own right; Deschanel as an actress and Ward as a musician. When news came to hand that these two poppets had gotten together (in the musical sense) to record an album of songs penned by Deschanel, eyebrows were raised and judgments were muttered about “another actress wanting a piece of the wannabe musical pie”.
But what we got on Volume One was a bonafide slice of delicious. Deschanel’s voice was articulate and assured, thin in places but engaging to listen to. Her lyrics had a degree of ‘twee-ness’ to them, but as a lover of blouses and bows and patent leather mary-janes, this suited my personal tastes just fine. Ward backed her up beautifully with cleverly arranged and played pieces of summery, retro-pop magic. They didn’t make the old sound new; they made the old sound like it was worth revisiting, and worth doing well.
On Volume Two, not a lot has changed and after repeated listens, I’m still sitting on the fence about whether or not this is a good thing.
There are some gems on this album, starting with the opening track ‘Thieves’. Lines like, “A love like ours is terrible news, but that won’t stop me crying over you”, convince me that Deschanel’s lyrics have matured – sprinkled with, rather than soaked in sugar, shall we say.
There’s a catchy-as-all-get-out piano hook in the school-girl-crush ditty, ‘In The Sun’ (check out the film clip), which also has Deschanel displaying some nice vocal textures, which again proves she is growing as a singer considering she has a limited vocal range.
‘Lingering Still’, is my hit pick off the album. It’s a swaying little number, complete with a deftly plucked ukulele that makes me think of wallflowers staring at their feet as they wait to be asked to jive and twirl at a Hawaiian-themed school dance. The best part of this song comes from Ward providing vocal harmonies in the chorus – it’s nice to be reminded of his presence, and he gives it a bit of a modern lick.
I obviously like a whole bunch of things about this album, so what’s my problem? Well, I wish I knew, that’s why I’m on the fence. There’s something about Volume Two that’s not quite sitting right with me, and I’m having a very hard time articulating what it is. And that almost never happens.
Was I expecting more? Well I’ve already decided that Deschanel’s lyrics and vocals have matured, that’s more, right? Was I expecting something different? Nope, it’s meant to sound old, that’s their style, and that’s what I loved about Volume One. It’s genuinely perplexing as to why I’m not giddy with glee over the album, more smiling with contentment.
Maybe I should just turn up the Volume Two, make a bad pun, pop a bow in my hair, buckle up my mary-janes and skip through the streets like no-one’s watching, maybe then I’ll have my answer?
Another reason I’m so perplexed is that I am a total boy-girl duo junkie. To attempt to ease my furrowed brow, and as I skip down the street in my mary-janes, this is the mini-mix that I’ll be listening to. I hope all you boys and girls enjoy. x
Mates Of State – Get Better
Matt & Kim – Daylight
Wye Oak – Please Concrete