Pre-Screening: She & Him's Volume Two

Album: Volume Two
Artist: She & Him
Label: Merge
Rating: 7.5

It's probable that She & Him will fail to ever break new ground. The M. Ward/Zooey Deschanel project will never test any other sound, mood or subject matter. Nor are they likely to release a record unless they’ve got some good material to work with. For better or for worse, you know exactly what you’re getting from them-- no more, no less. It can be comforting at times, especially in a sea of artists who change their stripes so often.

And yet, this seems to work perfectly for the duo. So long as Deschanel continues to lend her sultry, classic voice to Ward's instrumental stylings, this cycle could conceivably continue going on forever. Or at least for now, until the conclusion of their second album Volume Two.

There is very little difference from their previous effort when you first begin exploring Volume Two. What more can be accomplished with the aforementioned pieces? Still, the duo have actually managed to extrapolate their seemingly closed and confined sound into something even more polished and sentimental than the last record. Deschanel’s voice frolics with the hopes of young love. Her gushing persona as a young girl musing about boys is simply irresistible, from the bopping opener “Thieves,” to closer “If You Can’t Sleep.” The ladder of which may very well borrow most of its premise from Bing Crosby’s “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” but in a project like this, sometimes borrowing from classic tunes can be helpful and even encouraged in bits and pieces.

It’s that glowing charm that really carries Volume Two, even more so than its mostly-cheery predecessor. Of course, while increasingly extensive orchestration by Ward also lends to a much more grown-up and solid sound, one can’t help but notice Deschanel’s newfound fifth gear in the radiance department-- see "Lingering Still," amongst others for examples.

Amidst the breezy, open paths and winding, romantic roads we travel here, one problem does occur however. Repetition. For a large majority of the album, the two employ a pretty standard verse-chorus setup and three-minute runtime, with echoing Motown-style backing vocals for good measure. “Me and You,” “Sing,” “In the Sun”– you name it, the song will have those same elements. Besides some slight breaks such as “Home” and the aforementioned closer, many tracks can end up merging together. Since this wasn't the case on Volume One, we see it as the slightly unfortunate side effect to better production and maturity.

Still, it’s hard to fault She & Him for their songs appearing too similar to one another. Ward and Deschanel have never strived to be more than just a pleasant little pet project that (at times) resembled the 1960s, and that’s what Volume Two presented itself as. Such execution, even of their modest goals, can be appreciated and in this case, moderately celebrated. She & Him never try too hard, and it shows in how easy and pleasant an experience it is to listen to their music. Just take it for what it is, and chances are you'll enjoy what you hear.

Best Track: "Thieves" (via Pitchfork)

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