“It takes,” I said, “a certain amount of cheek to designate something which may or may not have a follow-up ‘Volume One’.”
Possession of cheek is herewith duly acknowledged. She & Him “She” being alt-actress Zooey Deschanel, while studio wizard M. Ward is “Him” have returned two years later with Volume Two, and it’s just as irresistible as its predecessor.
Part of the charm, I think, is the fact that Zooey’s voice doesn’t seem to go with her appearance: she looks like she’d be competing with the likes of Kate Bush for sheer top-of-the-staff wispiness, but she’s actually a warm, slightly throaty alto with old-fashioned countrypolitan overtones. She doesn’t venture too far out of her comfort zone, but then she writes most of this stuff, so she doesn’t have to. And Ward has apparently committed to memory every record made in the last fifty years, and can sound like any or all of them on short notice.
Volume Two, like Volume One before it, manages to keep its undeniable sweetness from becoming cloying. And the covers are more astutely chosen: NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car,” staged as a vocal duet with girl-group overtones, and “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” best-known as a 1956 single by the utterly-virginal Patience and Prudence, which Zooey conveys with there’s no other way to describe it wistful dismissal. The Deschanel originals are all over the map, but they’re all aimed directly at your heart. (“Don’t Look Back,” which opens with the line “Orpheus melted the heart of Persephone,” gives away the game.) Best of the lot: the a cappella lullaby “If You Can’t Sleep,” and the majorly-poppy “In the Sun.”
Do I have to wait until 2012 for Volume Three?
(Reviewed from purchased download.)