By Beatrice Esteban, Courier Managing Editor
Folk music has been around for centuries but has often been ridiculed by people that prefer a more contemporary sound in their music. Despite the respect that the music community holds for artists such as Bob Dylan, some proclaim folk music to be a silly, outdated, and dying genre of music. However, in recent years, many different styles of music have emerged from the indie music scene. One such sub-genre, known as indie folk, combines elements of folk storytelling and the mellow instrumentals of soft indie rock. Singer-songwriter M. Ward and actress Zooey Deschanel fit perfectly into this description with their band She & Him’s second album, Volume Two.
In their sophomore effort, the two appear to be even more heavily influenced by folk than on their first album, Volume One. However, this influence comes with a price: the album’s content is much less substantive than Volume One, focusing primarily on love-oriented songs.
Songs like “Thieves”, “Over It Over Again”, and “Brand New Shoes” all tell sad stories with one common theme – a broken heart. All three songs have hints of country laced in the instrumentals, and Deschanel’s soothing voice exhibits hints of melancholy when telling the listener her experiences.
Other songs, such as “In the Sun” and “Don’t Look Back”, start off with upbeat instrumentals in the beginning that lead the listener to believe that the lyrics will be similarly cheerful. Still, when one listens closely, they will realize that the lyrics are not as joyful as they initially perceived. For example, Deschanel regretfully sings on “In the Sun”: “My baby, my darling / I’ve been thinking of leaving.”
There are, however, a few more happy love songs in Volume Two that dismiss the notion that the album is entirely composed of depressing works. In “Sing”, Deschanel sings about the joy she feels when she sees her lover. And in “Home”, she sings to the object of her affection all the things she likes about him and telling him: “I could be sweet, and I could be sweeter / I wanna be where your heart is home.”
Although it may seem that Volume Two is mainly oriented around romance, ”I’m Gonna Make It Better” belittles those who never face their fears. There are definitive country elements, with piano instrumentals seamlessly integrated into the song as well. The guitar adds a nice touch, giving an overall mellow feel to the entire song to contrast its substantive lyrics.
The two covers on the album are the true highlights of the song, despite the different topics addressed in their lyrics. In a cover of band NRBQ’s “Ridin’ In My Car,” the listener is treated to Deschanel’s sweet, lovely voice in unison with M. Ward’s charming croon. The guitar conjures up memories of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” while the tone given off by the two remind the listener of another Beatles song, “Drive My Car.”
The next cover, of Teresa Baker’s “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, adds a folk twist to the original “swing jazz” song that was released in 1952. Deschanel’s voice adds an uplifting tone to the seemingly-melancholy lyrics, in which she essentially denounces her lover as a liar and cheater that she plans on leaving. Her voice, however, takes on a more haunting tone when she proclaims “So long, my honey / Goodbye, my dear.”
Despite the lack of substance in Volume Two, the number of love-oriented songs offered on the album are easily relatable. Ward’s production and guitar expertise are highly evident throughout the entire album, but his talent is never in competition with Deschanel’s pleasant croon. In fact, the two mesh together wonderfully to produce a delightful combination of rock, folk, and country music that will please most listeners.