Plumbiferous Media

Volume Two – She & Him

Mar 25th 2010
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Volume Two - She & HimShe & Him
Volume Two
Score: 25

Heavily hyped indie duo She & Him, composed of actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward, released its second album, Volume Two, which (unsurprisingly) follows its 2008 debut Volume One. Hype aside, however, Volume Two is, at its best, little more than a strikingly banal indicator that the purpose of She and Him is aimed more towards reviving the most cloyingly cheerful soft rock from the history of the genre than writing genuinely creative music, and at its worst, awful.

From a purely technical standpoint, while there is some musical repetition (thought not nearly as much as lyrical), Volume Two does not have many problems. Everything’s mostly in tune, nothing is too jarring, and individual lines are certainly not boring. Unfortunately, that’s about the best that can be said about Volume Two. Some tracks are overly similar musically, everything’s overly similar thematically, and when it’s not just plain irritating, it’s just plain boring. There are the few very limited, truly interesting sections, including about half of “Home” (the track continually modulates into interesting minor mini-sections, only to spring back out into the cheeriness that is the entire rest of the album), but that’s quite honestly about all the album has to offer.

As with Volume One, Deschanel provides vocals for Volume Two. The best that can be said of this is that her voice fits quite well with the incessantly effervescent tone of the music. The rest, unfortunately, doesn’t come out quite so well. It’s not that Deschanel can’t sing. Instead, it’s that she cannot seem to stop being so damn cheerful. Every line of Volume Two seems to be infused with an infuriatingly vacant glee that does less to lend emotion to the album than it does to make every moment indistinguishable from the rest. Cheerful music isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but when an album has been so obviously packed with painfully inane whimsy, as Volume Two has, it is.

Volume Two is composed of eleven original songs and two covers, each of which somehow manages to be just as repetitive and obnoxiously insipid as the last. Essentially – when the deepest, most thought-provoking line an album contains is “I could be sweet / And I could be sweeter,” either something has gone badly wrong in the writing process or the album was never meant to stand up to scrutiny any deeper than a reading of the track titles. In that spirit, Volume Two is composed of emotionally stilted love songs, the occasional mediocre metaphor, and as much repetition as an album can hold.

The real problem with the cheery vapidness that consumes Volume Two is just that – it consumes the album. While many albums get away with tracks that purposefully sound intellectually empty, in order to achieve a specific effect, if the whole album is simply empty of anything other than pure lightheadedness, you’re left with the feeling that no amount of thought actually went into making the album. There are happier albums than Volume Two, there are more creative albums than Volume Two, there are more stimulating albums, and really, there are just better albums than Volume Two.

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