She & Him, "Volume Two"

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She & Him's second album, "Volume Two," offers up all the charm of the duo's 2008 debut, "Volume One." But this time around, actress Zooey Deschanel and indie-rock titan M. Ward approach the music with a newfound confidence; "Volume Two" expands the balmy melodies and bittersweet lyrics that the pair knows so well. On the dreamy opening track "Thieves," Deschanel pours her heartbreak over wistful strings, while "Lingering Still" marries similar unlucky-in-love lyrics to Ward's summery guitar work. Meanwhile, "Over It Over Again" finds Deschanel serving her vocals with a little more bite ("Why do I always wanna sock it to you hard?"). As on "Volume One," Ward's performance and production excel, and his song arrangements move effortlessly between heart-rending and cheery. While Ward's musicianship remains the magic behind She & Him, Deschanel's lyrical growth on "Volume Two" proves she can hold her own alongside a well-respected partner.