Review: She & Him, Goldfrapp

Zooey is back with M. Ward, and possibly better than ever, while the Brit poppers try to get a bit too serious.

PHOTO COURTESY MUTE RECORDS

PHOTO COURTESY MUTE RECORDS

Kara Nesvig

ARTIST: She & Him ALBUM: âÄùVolume TwoâÄù LABEL: Merge Records Confession: I am not a Zooey Deschanel fan. In fact, as of late I have come to detest all that Ms. Deschanel stands for: the whimsy, the commercial jingles about cotton, the ruffled dresses and ukuleles. Now that my bias is out in the open, you can imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed She & Him’s “Volume Two.” I admit, a few songs on Deschanel and M. WardâÄôs first album “Volume One” had captured my fancy briefly, but later I found them too blantant a rip-off of what Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood had done so much better in the âÄô60s and âÄô70s. But where the first failed, âÄúVolume TwoâÄôsâÄù sunshiney melodies and sweetly, oft-sadly romantic ditties actually feel authentic. Again, itâÄôs clear that the real talent is on the âÄúhimâÄù end of She & HimâÄôs gimmick. Don’t get me wrong: Zooey’s got a lovely, slightly quivering voice reminiscent of Billie Holiday when she sticks to her alto register, but she’s no lyrical or instrumental sgenius. Most of “Volume Two” sticks to the sweetly jangling throwback pop of their first endeavor. That’s a good thing, because it’s hard to imagine Zooey doing anything but an innocent Jenny Lewis/’60s pop chanteuse imitation. (She even covers classic singer Skeeter Davis’s “Gonna Get Along WIthout You Now.”) Zooey’s backing band supports her songs of broken hearts and big crushes with Petula Clark-esque cheery drums and boppy piano. M. Ward occasionally takes the mic on songs like “Ridin’ in my Car,” which is what you should be doing while listening to it. ItâÄôs safe to say that if you enjoyed âÄúVolume One,âÄù youâÄôre going to take a shine to âÄúVolume Two.âÄù Key track: âÄúLingering StillâÄù ARTIST: Goldfrapp ALBUM: âÄùHead FirstâÄù LABEL: Mute Records Continuing “Girl Power Week” in releases comes “Head First” from British electro-glitter duo Goldfrapp, fronted by the delicious disco queen Alison Goldfrapp. If “Volume Two” suits a road trip through wheat fields in the summer, “Head First” should be required as the soundtrack for a hedonistic night on the town, preferably one that involves copious amounts of glitter. Whereas their last album, âÄúSeventh Tree,âÄù was a softer, gentler version of Goldfrapp, âÄúHead FirstâÄù picks up the tempo and brings Goldfrapp and her partner Will Gregory back to their dance-pop roots. This time, theyâÄôre taking on the âÄô80s with upbeat, synth-heavy songs like âÄúRocketâÄù and âÄúBeliever,âÄù which have any self-respecting listener eager to slide into some spandex and shimmy. But this nine-song album isnâÄôt all fun and games. âÄúXanadu.âÄù âÄúHuntâÄù and âÄúVoicethingâÄù see them experimenting with a more sweeping, shoegaze sound as GoldfrappâÄôs light-as-air vocals float angelically over the driving synths. But the change in tone isnâÄôt necessarily a good thing. These are the songs most likely to make you hit the skip button on âÄúHead First,âÄù because itâÄôs far more fun to pretend to be Olivia Newton John on roller skates. Key track: âÄúRocketâÄù