She & Him: Volume Two

he & Him
Volume Two
(Merge)

After the first listen, it would be very easy to write this album (and group, for that matter) off as faux, poseur indie rock. After all, the band seems a little contrived. Come on, wunderkind singer-songwriter M. Ward on guitars/production and the effervescent actress Zooey Deschanel on vocals/piano/banjo – covering NRBQ and releasing albums on the one and only Merge Records?! I know, I know – it’s a little hard to take.

But, they’re great. I can’t state it any other way. They are great.

Volume Two is just that, the second album from this dynamic duo. Granted, Deschanel showed everyone she had a set of pipes on her in that great “shower” scene from Elf … you know the one. And then she surprised many more with She & Him’s first album (Volume One). Here, she kicks it up a notch, with sole writing credits on 11 out of 13 tracks (the other two being covers). Impressive is an understatement.

The album has a very relaxed feel to it. It’s one of those records you can put on, hit repeat and let it go all day. It’s familiar – I swear the ghost of Jay Bennett was working his magic on the production and arrangements on a few songs. If nothing else, he came back long enough to tinkle the ivories, play a little lead and provide the occasional backup. Plus, it’s comforting. The album closes with the beautiful “If You Can’t Sleep” and when Deschanel sings, “Shut your eyes, there are bluer skies. For you’re embraced in my heart,” you can’t help but get fooled into thinking she’s singing just to you. I mean, I fully believe she was/is singing just to me.