Wednesday, March 24, 2010

She & Him - Volume Two

It's been two years since Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward first collaborated on the first She & Him album, Volume One, so it's not surprising that this new album is properly titled, Volume Two. With their emotionally driven folk/country/pop sound, it's certainly not the type of music we'd normally review here, but I really enjoyed the first album and just had to get the new one, so read on.

The sound of this album is very much like the first. It's heavy on acoustic guitars and piano, and Zooey's beautiful vocals, with Ward occasionally stepping in to sing as well. The album opener, "Thieves," is a surprisingly somber track, and seems more like a song you'd hear midway on album, but thankfully, the next track, "In The Sun," brightens up the mood. The track is very light-hearted, and is a really perfect spring-time track, it's hard to explain, but when you hear you'll know.

The album's third song, "Don't Look Back," is probably my most favorite from Volume Two, which is interesting because the third track on Volume One, "This Is Not A Test," was my favorite from that album. It's the type of song that if someone told me it was a 1960's pop song that time forgot, I'd probably believe them. That aspect continues on the NBRQ cover, "Ridin' In My Car," which sounds very much like the 1977 original, but with Zooey's voice (with M. Ward singing back up) it's pretty perfect. Both tracks are a really nice mix of Zooey's vocals and M. Ward's guitar playing, with both getting a nice share of equality.

Following those two is "Lingering Still" and "Me And You," which both slow down the pace and have much more of a classic country ballad sound than most of the tracks here, they're sincere, but I much prefer the lively She & Him tracks. "Gonna Get Along Without You Now," which follows, features a similar classic country sound, with Zooey on primary vocals with back singers as well, just unlike the previous two tracks, it's a bit more lively and relies less on the slide guitars.

Next are "Home" and "I'm Gonna Make It Better," both have a nice combination of the country sound with the pop sound of "In The Sun," and I really loved how Zooey provides her own back-up vocal lines on the former track, it works quite well in the overly sweet song. "Sing" returns to the country ballad sound, with the addition of violins and organs to reinforce that sound, it's not my favorite on the album, but it's not too bad.

The following track, "Over It Over Again," is another one of those 1960's pop sound tracks, and it's been stuck in my head ever since I started listening to the album yesterday. That's not to say it's bad, or more favored than "Don't Look Back," but the chorus is just really catchy, and it's one of the better tracks on the album.

Volume Two closes out with two very slow songs "Brand New Shoes" and "If You Can't Sleep," which both drop the backing band and leave Zooey and M. Ward with just a microphone and guitar; although the latter sounds much more like Zooey with backing singers hummers. Combined, they're a better ending than Volume One's lo-fi rendition of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," but I much preferred the rest of the album's sound.

Overall, Volume Two is a step above Volume One, it's not a huge step, but a step none the less. It's got the same number of tracks, though 10 minutes extra in length, but there's a better good song to not as good song ratio. I found for the most part, the songs have a very similar sound, and if you were listen to the songs from both albums on shuffle, it'd probably be hard to distinguish the tracks unless you already had a good memory of whats what. If you liked the first album, and want to hear more of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, you'll be pleased, but otherwise I don't see Volume Two winning over any new fans.

Overall Score: 8.3/10

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