Pure Pop for Now People

Volume 2 (Merge Records)
She & Him

By Kirk Kiefer

She & Him, consisting of doe-eyed singer/songwriter Zooey Deschanel and not-so-doe-eyed producer/guitarist M. Ward, released a near-perfect pop album with 2008's Volume 1. Mixing '60s pop with elements of classic country, V. 1 was a pleasant surprise amidst other releases of the time. Unsurprisingly, V. 2 is just as enjoyable without being a complete carbon copy.

Musically, there's more confidence here; whereas V. 1 had a let's-try-this-and-see-what-happens, semi-stripped-down vibe, V. 2 tends to play on a larger canvas with the opening track, "Thieves," building to a dramatic climax of strings, acoustic guitars, bells and Deschanel belting out the final "You-ooooooo" on top of it all. The summer-timey single, "In the Sun," chugs along with fairly benign lyrics ("well alright/it's okay/we all get the slip sometimes every day/I'll just keep it to myself/in the sun" is the chorus) but Deschanel's breezy delivery and the perfectly constructed backing make it hard not to sing along with a smile.

While some songs, such as "In the Sun," stay close to the "I love you/you don't love me/you love me/I don't love you" or some permutation thereof, many songs are more esoteric. Take the instantly catchy "Don't Look Back" and its opening couplet: "Orpheus melted the heart of Persephone, but I never had yours."

The biggest overall influence on V. 2 is definitely the Beach Boys. Massed oohs, ahhs, ooo-woo-hoos etc. sit atop Wall-Of-Sound backing tracks complete with sleigh bells (note: if you want to make something "Brian Wilson-esque", just add sleigh bells). It sounds great, but I did find myself missing the more country-styled songs as sprinkled throughout V. 1, as they help bring some variation to the program.

Fans of the group's first release will be more than pleased with Volume 2. And if you're a retro-pop fan, V. 2 is a must. They'll also be performing Sunday, July 11, at the Forecastle Festival here in town, so it's a perfect time to hop on board.

Find out more at www.sheandhim.com