Why half-settle for stuff that is half-new?

She & Him, Volume Two
The new release from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward is pretty similar to the first one. Similar title, similar cover art, and similar songs. Since I really liked their first album, though, I don’t see that as a bad thing. While Volume One had three quite recognizable cover songs, however, this one only has two, and as far as I can tell they’re considerably more obscure. I quite like them both, though. I haven’t heard the original version of “Gonna Get Along Without You Now,” but it really does seem tailor-made for She & Him. Overall, the songs on the album are very much in the cute vein, with fun arrangements and not-very-loud instrumentation. Zooey’s distinct voice is also an integral part of the sound. “In the Sun” is definitely deserving of being the first single, and other favorites include “Lingering Still” and “Over It Over Again.”

The New Pornographers, Together
Okay, does anyone have any idea what any New Pornographers songs are actually about? I used to think They Might Be Giants had difficult-to-decipher lyrics, but they’re totally understandable compared to what Carl Newman comes up with. (Actually, I have to wonder if anyone in TMBG is a fan of the New Pornographers, since their relatively recent song “Feign Amnesia” reminds me a lot of the NP’s.) The appeal to the band is largely in how the songs sound, due in no small part to the vocals of Neko Case, probably my favorite female singer (even if she doesn’t play any instruments in the band except for the occasional tambourine). I thought their previous album, Challengers, didn’t sound as epic as most of their stuff, but Together restores that sound. My favorites on this one include “Crash Years,” Dan Bejar’s “Silver Jenny Dollar” (that chorus is amazingly difficult to get out of your head), “Up in the Dark,” and “A Bite Out of My Bed” (mostly for the guitar and drum parts). And even though it’s not one of favorites, I have to give special credit to “Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” for its excellent title. Incidentally, while most of the references I find to some songs in other ones are probably totally unintentional, there were a few lines in “Crash Years” that I wonder about. “Honey child, you’re not safe here” is pretty similar to a line in the Smiths’ “Panic” (although I believe the Smiths’ line is actually, “Honey PIE, you’re not safe here”). And “Spectacular Views” is the title of a Rilo Kiley song. Maybe I just want that association to be intentional because I tend to mentally associate Neko with Jenny Lewis. Both are redheads, both show some country influence, and both seem to have a fair amount of fanbase overlap. And I have crushes on both of them, but what are you going to do?

Oh, and while I’m at it, here’s a picture of Jenny and Zooey together:

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