Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: She & Him, Volume Two

She & Him
Volume 2
            This might just be the sunniest sounding set of sad songs I’ve ever laid ears on.  She & Him’s second album, appropriately titled, Version 2, stands apart from their debut album as a much more coherent, fluid collection of songs written almost entirely by actress and artist, Zooey Deschanel.  For those new to the duo, She & Him is the collaboration between acclaimed indie singer and songwriter M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel, recognized for her roles in quirky romantic films like “500 Days of Summer.”  But enough of that Hollywood business!  As the lead vocalist and songwriter of this retro-pop duo, Deschanel’s voice outshines her actress reputation and surprises doubters of her talent as a vocalist, prompting comparisons to the musical stylings of female singers from Peggy Lee to Tammy Wynette. The mix of M. Ward’s intoxicating melodies and occasional vocals combined with Deschanel’s voice and lyrics makes for a stripped down 60’s pop and country inspired collection of sweet, catchy songs.
The themes in this album are certainly more somber than those on the debut, filled with songs recounting heartbreak and tales of out-of-synch lovers, but you would never know it from the sound of it.  The second track on Version 2, “In The Sun” pretty well sums up the idea behind this paradox of upbeat, happy melodies paired with sad lyrics.  Though Deschanel may be writing about love lost, as she says, “I’ll just keep it to myself in the sun.”  This theme runs throughout the album, making it a little repetitive both because of the song material and because of the fact that every song ends with at least a full minute of repeated refrain.  This repetition, however, is my only solid complaint, and besides that, She & Him have conspired to create a very enjoyable album far exceeding expectations and much more fluid than Version 1. (more after the jump)

Highlights of the album are “Home,” “Me and You,” and She & Him’s cover of NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car” which is such a shift from the original it’s barely recognizable.  “Me and You” is my personal favorite – sweet, candid, and memorable.  It has perfectly arranged vocals, harmonies, and steel guitar to add that old-timey country sound. “Home” has perhaps the most thoughtful lyrics and a very sweet sentiment – “I want to be where your heart is home.”  It’s the simple things that matter in Deschanel’s love songs, and I think the whole album’s stripped down simplicity reflects that theme well.  For a candy-coated set of honest love songs, well-produced and full of memorable hooks look no further.  My only hope is that on their next album, M. Ward will emerge in a more prominent musician’s role rather than staying mostly in the background as he does on this album.  For now though, I’ll be dreaming of sunny beaches back in California as I spin Version 2 on repeat. 
-- Britt Shaw
Host, "Under the Influence," Fridays 10-12 AM on WGTB

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