Latest She & Him is pleasant, but predictable

It’s time to admit it: She & Him is the romcom of modern music.

Every time I see the duo of guitarist-singer M. Ward and actress-singer Zooey Deschanel are putting out a new album, I wonder if this is finally the time someone has spiked the punch that is this group’s persistent sweet demeanor.

But the duo’s album “Classics” proves to be more of the same, albeit with a pleasant twist. On the duo’s fifth album, Ward and Deschanel present a collection of polished, jazz-tinged pop standard covers that harken back to 1930s to 1950s radio. On many of the songs, Ward and Deschanel are backed by a 20-piece orchestra and a chorus of singers.

Now, I compare She & Him to a romantic-comedy because they continue following a predictably safe path of pleasant love songs.

Songs like “This Girl’s In Love With You” reiterate the sense of comfortable knowing — the sense of knowing that boy will get the girl in the film’s final act.

The duo has shown growth. “Classics” is the group’s major label release, as the two traded Merge Records for Columbia Records.

The pop standards simultaneously feel like delightful surprise and a the natural next step. The album feels similar to “A Very She & Him Christmas” in that it feels new and familiar all at once.

Like past records, She & Him are at their best when Ward and Deschanel share lead vocals, like on “Time After Time.” Ward’s raspy voice balances out the unwavering sweetness of Deschanel’s vocals. In these moments, the two find a more balanced approach.

Ward’s husky voice finds a tender touch on “She,” which is one of the standout tracks on the album, with Deschanel singing backing vocals as Ward takes lead.

But I keep waiting for these two to stretch beyond their comfort zone. Yes, covering pop standards is a unique idea, but it’s right in Deschanel and Ward’s wheelhouse.

If you’re familiar with the duo, this is exactly what you’ve come to expect: Deschanel’s overly sweet vocals, Ward’s steady guitar and gruff voice intermittently taking lead vocals.

Like with a romantic-comedy, I feel like the curmudgeon in the back of the theater snorting at the unbelievability of the happy ending.

But also like a romcom, She & Him must be enjoyed for what it is, because the duo fills its niche so well. It’s not difficult to appreciate the two, but it’s even harder not to expect more.

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