She & Him: Volume Two
She & Him: Volume Two
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By Adam Leveridge
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Monday, 15, Mar 2010 05:35
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What's it all about?
Volume Two is - rather understandably - the second album produced by She & Him. For the uninitiated, She is (500) Days of Summer actress and occasional songwriter Zooey Deschanel and Him is US alt-rock star M Ward.
The second album from the pair was recorded in both Los Angeles and Portland, where She and Him respectively reside. Featuring 13 tracks, the record includes eleven tunes written by Deschanel alongside two covers - NRBQ's Ridin' in My Car and Skeeter Davis' Gonna Get Along Without You Now. M Ward offers a couple of vocals, but generally stays behind the scenes on production and guitar duties.
Who's it by
Zooey Deschanel is probably best known for work on the big screen. As well as wooing Will Ferrell in the Christmas comedy Elf, she also seemingly took great pleasure in breaking Joseph Gordon Levitt's heart in the brilliant indie rom-com (500) Days of Summer.
However, she has history in the world of music too. Early efforts in a jazz cabaret act took a backseat when she struck up a musical partnership with M Ward, releasing Volume One of the She & Him recordings in 2008.
As for Ward, he has become one of the most acclaimed and talked about artists in the US alt-rock scene, with last year's Hold Time consolidating his high status among both fans and critics alike.
No stranger to collaborations, he has worked with the likes of Cat Power, Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis and Beth Orton in the past. He also turned heads in 2009 by working with peers Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Jim James under the name Monsters of Folk.
As an example...
"I know and you know too/That a love like ours is terrible news/But that won't stop me crying." - Thieves
"It's hard to take the blame/When I look at you, you're so ashamed/My baby, my darling/I've been thinking of leaving." - In the Sun
What the others say
"Deschanel, clearly, is an exquisite talent, and has a rare knack for treating yesteryear's musical principles with dexterity, and, crucially, without descending into ham-fisted revivalism." - MusicOMH
"The album is breezy, lush and defiantly luminous in its charms, all understated strings, twanging guitars and delicate harmonies." - Music Week
So is it any good?
For a partnership which many may not see as the most obvious, it works brilliantly well. Over the course of the 13 tracks there are a number of gems, while all of the songs are expertly crafted by Deschanel and effortlessly captured by Ward.
One thing that is sure after the first listen is that the actress-songwriter is a dab hand at heartbreak. The twangy guitar lines and strings of opener Thieves lead the way beautifully with a sound reminiscent of 60s girl groups and Phil Spector. You'll find yourself hooked from the first refrain of "but that won't stop me crying..." in the chorus.
Another heartbreaker is Brand New Shoes, which shuffles along on acoustic guitar and showcases Deschanel's wonderfully emotive vocals. If You Can't Sleep takes the album's gentleness a stop further, as it is only built on haunting multi-tracked vocals alone.
It's not all tearful break-ups though. The likes of In the Sun, Don't Look Back and Over It Over Again pure pop gems which with a higher tempo, with could easily fit on the soundtrack of quirky rom-coms like the singer's (500) Days of Summer.
The covers are also dealt with expertly and fit the overall mood of the album, which has a glistening summery - and occasionally jaunty - feel to it. The sweetness might not be to everyone's taste though, particularly as on initial listens some tracks can appear somewhat samey.
However, anyone who loves US alt-country or well-crafted, perfectly constructed songs with a classic feel will be more than happy to spend time taking in the tunes on offer here.