Upon leaving the Smiths in 1987, Johnny Marr embarked on a musical walkabout, choosing to collaborate rather than build a career. He began playing studio sessions, appearing on records by Talking Heads, Pretenders, Kirsty MacColl, Pet Shop Boys, and Billy Bragg, embarked on an extended collaboration with Matt Johnson of The The, and formed Electronic with Bernard Sumner, effectively sitting out the great Brit-pop explosion of the '90s. By the turn of the millennium, he finally tried his hand at fronting a band, turning in the underwhelming Boomslang with the Healers in 2003, before once again sliding into a supporting role, joining Modest Mouse in 2006 and then decamping for the Cribs a few years later.
It’s hard to be ambivalent about Zooey Deschanel. She’s a polarizing personality, one whose deadpan movie roles and big Bambi eyes are either charming or too cute for their own good. The same can be said for She & Him, a soft rock duo that features Deschanel doing what she does best as a film star: acting utterly adorable alongside a quiet, talented male character. Her co-star in this case is M. Ward, who produces the band's second album and frames Deschanel’s voice with a Spector-sized pile of instruments. Those who already take issue with Zooey’s acting will almost surely pick this record apart – it’s too reminiscent of her cutesy turns in movies like (500) Days of Summer to change many minds – but for fans of retro pop (and Deschanel in general), Volume 2 is a gem. Whether they’re copping the Brill Building sound or resurrecting ‘70s beach-pop, She & Him always seem to have nostalgia on the mind.