She and Him: Volume 2 – Retro Pop Meets Indie Rock (all over again)

23 March 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Well, today saw the release of the second album by the singer-songwriter duo “She and Him,” simply titled Volume 2.

The “She,” if you’re unaware, is none other than Zooey Deschanel, and the “Him” is M. Ward, whom you may be familiar with from his indie/folk career. The most prominent feature, of course, is Deschanel’s voice, as sweet as honey and delicate as porcelain. Who couldn’t fall just a little bit in love with the jazzy, bluesy sound of her voice? (yes, readers; I’m a little bit in love with Zooey Deschanel…don’t get too uptight; I went through the same thing with Norah Jones a few years ago…maybe I’ve got a thing for singing brunettes…)

Volume 2 is aptly named. The album fits seamlessly into the retro-pop category the pair had so firmly established with their first album. Lots of colorful, sunshiny melody woven together with plenty of strings, some pedal steel and, as mentioned, the contribution of Deschanel’s voice.

The only discernible difference on the album is a slightly more choral influence (noticeable in the album’s first single, “In the Sun,” the video for which appears above) and the fact that Ward makes a vocal contribution on this record, offering the album an unexpected though not unwelcome male presence.

So if you’re looking for something new, you’re not going to find it. But if the shoe fits, right?

The great thing about this kitschy duo is their ability to take 50’s and 60’s stylings and appropriate them for an indie-rock and pop audience.

The lyrics all possess a narrative quality that embody both simplicity and mystery. The lyrical world that Deschanel’s voice inhabits is shaped by many sources – including some odd ones. According to an interview with Relevant Magazine, the song “Secret” was inspired by an episode of MTV’s “Cribs.” Other songs each have their own unique quality, of which she says,

“Some of the lyrics are personal, some aren’t. Some are stories; some are about other people I know, but [I change] around the perspective. The one thing I can say is that the lyrics are not usually what they seem. The obvious answer to their origin is almost never the real answer. I had a friend ask me about a song on the last record called “This Is Not a Test,” whether it was about being an actress. But the real answer was that it was about pioneers on the wagon trail to Oregon and California during the Gold Rush.”

THE APPEAL OF RETRO

So what’s the appeal? I mean, the music is without doubt, the kitschiest, most retro-est piece of musical pastiche that’s currently out there.

And I love it. And I’m way too jaded to like this music.

I think it has something to do with the fact that it is so simple, so direct, and so honest. Young adults are more likely than ever to define their relationships and even themselves as “complicated.” Perhaps the appeal of this retro veneer is that it reflects a simplicity and even a childlike innocence we often don’t find within ourselves or others – a breeze of fresh air for the jaded, cynical, MTV generation.

And, for those interested, according to the aforementioned interview, there will be probably be a Volume 3.

Until then, I hope you enjoy hearing Volume 2. It’s currently available on Amazon MP3 at a discount, but only for a limited time.

23 March 2010

Christopher J Wiles

writer | speaker | servant

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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