She & Him’s Volume 2 makes a slight departure from 2008’s Volume 1. Actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward’s second album is full of Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and twangy California guitar, maintaining the duo’s penchant for a retro sound. However, the album sounds almost too retro, evoking a kind of nostalgia that neither Deschanel nor Ward were alive to witness in the first place. To its credit, though, V2 feels like an album; the songs consciously flow together to create an easy listening experience. In an age of individual tracks and playlists, it’s refreshing to be able to listen from start to finish without skipping a song.
While V2 seems less cemented in the stripped-down concept of boy, girl, and a guitar, it definitely doesn’t stray far from it. More polished than V1, it incorporates a variety of instruments and voices for a fuller, more upbeat sound. Like on V1, however, Deschanel’s voice and personality are the central focus of every song. Her voice is pretty but lacks range, and without the harmonies sung by Ward, she runs the risk of being blatantly average.
Overall, the retro, California inspiration seems to be working for She & Him. Volume 2 is catchy, whimsical, and perfect for a summer road trip. The writing isn’t brilliant, and the concept is a bit cheesy after a while, but when you’re in the mood for something light and easy to listen to, it just might do the trick.