She & Him - Volume Two

M. Ward truly has found his muse in Deschanel. The actor really can sing, and it is her vocals that carry the album. The marriage of M. Ward's slick, befitting production and Deschanel's light, cherubic vocals takes listeners of Volume Two to a simpler time, when AM radio was king and microwave ovens were a luxury. What really makes this album is Ward's acute ability to match Deschanel's unique vocals with the perfect sonic accompaniment.

What the critics are saying:

Entertainment Weekly: "Volume Two, unsurprisingly, trucks in much the same sunny, strummy nostalgia as its predecessor. The pair don't so much create new material as conflate their favorite bits from a lovingly curated pile of dusty vinyl. "Thieves" and "Me and You" have the dreamy AM-radio appeal 
of records whose cardboard sleeves featured girls with knowing eyes and back-combed bouffants. "Don't Look Back" brims with sweet piano plonk and Spector-ish 
harmonies, while ''Lingering Still'' and ''Gonna Get Along Without You Now'' sway between lullaby twang and Brill Building jangle. Though Ward is a master instrumentalist, Deschanel's vocal affects and childlike rhymes sometimes veer into twee overload; she can seem too in love with her own adorability. But by a cappella closer ''If You Can't Sleep,'' it's hard to begrudge this Volume's magpie charms."

Pitchfork: "On [Volume Two], Deschanel seems more confident as a singer, songwriter, and vocal arranger. She still has more personality than range, but has learned to maneuver around the parts she can't nail in order to sell them. Transforming herself into her own version of the Watson Twins, Deschanel often backs up herself and channels 1960s country gold classics on the languid "Me and You" and the plaintive "Brand New Shoes", pointing to older styles but never sounding beholden to the past. Her ah-has and mm-hmms make her cover of Skeeter Davis' "Gonna Get Along Without You Now" sound impossibly perky, as if she's lighter for having dumped that creep, and on closer "If You Can't Sleep", Ward layers her humming into a gentle orchestra that add s to the song's lullaby sweetness."

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Rolling Stone: "'California is a great big nation,' sings Zooey Deschanel on her second collaboration with singer-songwriter M. Ward. The duo's impeccably assembled retro pop is unmistakably regional, with puckish hooks and reverb-heavy production that recall California dreamers like the Mamas and the Papas. The songs are all wistful -- even tales of stupefying ennui like "I'm Gonna Make It Better." It's the sunniest sad record you'll hear all year -- pretty love songs set in a "nation" where summer never ends."

Spin: "Avengers of adorableness should avoid Volume Two, [Deschanel's] second collaboration with singer-songwriter M. Ward, since it's loaded with catchy odes to sunshine and hand-holding and learning to "be kind to yourself." But fans of '70s AM Gold will sip this stuff down like so much well-aged chardonnay. Buffeted by Ward's pillowy acoustic strums, Deschanel is a convincing soft-rock goddess, conjuring Linda Ronstadt on the country shuffle "Thieves" and Skeeter Davis on a cover of "Gonna Get Along Without You." She lays down the lullaby "If You Can't Sleep" with a voice as clear and rosy as stained glass. There's just one thing missing: any emotions that don't fit on a scale from mildly content to vaguely pleasant. Sometimes Volume Two drifts in a Valium haze of deep sighs, or its lyrics wanly drain the fun out of romance. "Running away from you is just like running a business," Deschanel coos. Love, ain't it bland?"

Volume Two is out now via Merge.

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