When people think of Zooey Deschanel, they remember the big, blue, staring eyes of an actress known for her off-beat, humorous performances in films such as “Yes Man,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “(500) Days of Summer.” They might not know anything at all about her career on the side as one half of the accomplished indie folk band, She & Him.
Deschanel made the transition from actress to singer flawlessly, where others in her field often fail (think Lindsay Lohan). Perhaps it was because she actually is a talented crooner (who could forget her shower-rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in “Elf” with Will Ferrell?) or because she wasn’t looking for a singing career.
Whatever the reason, her music career all started when she met musician Matthew Ward to collaborate on a song for her film, “The Go-Getter.” Ward discovered that Deschanel had been privately writing songs for years and he convinced her to record with him. The two formed the low-key duo of She & Him.
Their first album, “Volume One,” was a surprise hit with critics and fans, who praised the lighthearted music written and performed by Deschanel and organized by Ward, who also provided guitar and vocals. Now the pair follows their first recording with the inevitably-titled “Volume Two.”
This album boasts more of the same formula; Deschanel singing her original perky songs with Ward’s guitar and synthesizing skills providing the catchy tunes. The album gives off an overall happy vibe, as Deschanel’s songs are full of sunshine in the midst of thwarted love. The music itself contains elements of folk, doo-wop and modern pop. “Volume Two” is reminiscent of the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and Kimya Dawson all at the same time.
The album’s major single, “In the Sun,” is an irresistibly catchy tune featuring soft, sultry vocals and an interesting guitar solo by Ward.
The lyrics may be the most reflective of any of Deschanel’s, as they give listeners a glimpse into her private, easygoing manner: “Well alright, it’s ok, we all get the slip sometimes every day / I’ll just keep it to myself in the sun.” Perhaps the song is a bit obnoxious in Ward’s sugary, playful arrangement, but so what? It still accomplishes its task in becoming the perfect song to listen to while driving with the windows rolled down.
“Volume Two” has strong beginning and ending tracks, but the ones in between fall into the unfortunate abyss of not being memorable, with the exception of “Home,” an elaborately produced song of contented love.
The album winds down in the final two tracks from hyperactive happiness to sober, thoughtful melodies. The humming harmonies featured on “If You Can’t Sleep” create a peaceful and indeed sleepy atmosphere in this exquisite lullaby.
She & Him also provide covers of Skeeter Davis’ “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” and NRBQ’s “Ridin’ in My Car.”
Deschanel has a lilting voice that invites the listener to come play with her. Singing is a better forte for the doe-eyed personality than her original career in acting; where her quirky manner made her onscreen characters interesting but unrealistic, as a singer and songwriter she is free to create a fun, eccentric character in her music.
In film, when an audience wants a relatable character, Deschanel is not the first actress to come to mind. But in music, her odd persona allows lyrics like “Why don’t we just sit and stare and do nothing?” to become perfectly acceptable, and she becomes simply a talented songstress intent on making her audience happy and lighthearted.
Erin Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.