For almost a decade now, the droll, doll-faced actress Zooey Deschanel has served as Hollywood’s unofficial ambassador of Alt Whimsy — a hipsterette pinup flitting breezily between the worlds of indie quirk and showbiz gloss. After years of dabbling with singing on the big screen (see: Elf, Yes Man) she finally went all-in with She & Him, a shamelessly retro, grammatically iffy pairing with lauded folk troubadour M. Ward. Their first release, 2008’s Volume One, found instant success with the NPR-tote-bag set and cemented Deschanel’s bilateral cutie-pie status. (Her subsequent marriage to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard didn’t hurt.)
Volume Two, unsurprisingly, trucks in much the same sunny, strummy nostalgia as its predecessor. The pair don’t so much create new material as conflate their favorite bits from a lovingly curated pile of dusty vinyl. “Thieves” and “Me and You” have the dreamy AM-radio appeal of records whose cardboard sleeves featured girls with knowing eyes and back-combed bouffants. “Don’t Look Back” brims with sweet piano plonk and Spector-ish harmonies, while ”Lingering Still” and ”Gonna Get Along Without You Now” sway between lullaby twang and Brill Building jangle. Though Ward is a master instrumentalist, Deschanel’s vocal affects and childlike rhymes sometimes veer into twee overload; she can seem too in love with her own adorability. But by a cappella closer ”If You Can’t Sleep,” it’s hard to begrudge this Volume’s magpie charms.