The more I hear of She & Him, the more delightful it seems that M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel managed to find each other. Yes, I said delightful, which is not a word often used to describe pop music these days … at least not by me.

The more I hear of She & Him, the more delightful it seems that M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel managed to find each other. Yes, I said delightful, which is not a word often used to describe pop music these days … at least not by me.


But it works when describing the vibe these two create; they clearly share a love for music that seems to come into being from outside time — maybe even from an alternate universe where simple statements about love and loss in a reedy almost-falsetto are all you need to move mountains, or at least a jaded populace.


On their second record, "Volume Two," Ward’s musicianship and backing vocals are again key to the duo’s success; like his 2009 solo disc "Hold Time, Volume Two" is steeped in Ward’s aptitude for lilting strings, delicately strummed acoustic guitars and an appreciation for the way reverb can make a song sound like it was beamed in from a 1962 Roy Orbison session.


But whether you cotton to She & Him falls squarely on how you feel about Deschanel, who wrote most of the songs on "Volume Two." Having had a crush on her as the skeptical shopgirl who falls reluctantly for Will Ferrell in "Elf" might play a role there, but her appeal on this disc goes beyond mere actor’s charisma.


“Lonely isn’t sad,” she sings on “Thieves,” the album’s opening number, and she could be describing her own vocals: On most tracks they bring just the right dose of melancholy without dragging you into some emo underworld. When she intones that “It’s all right, it’s OK” on “In The Sun,” somehow it really feels like it is.


The lyrics may not be groundbreaking, but they’re almost always engaging — when Deschanel makes the oft-repeated musical request to “Don’t Look Back,” she’s probably the only one ever to have done so with a nod to Orpheus and Persephone. And when she hits those rare low notes, I’m sorry, but it’s adorable.


Ward’s influence is heavily felt on the album’s strongest tracks, like “Lingering Still,” a flamenco-tinged strummer where Deschanel declares, both mysteriously and matter-of-factly, how “the world’s like a science and I’m like a secret.” Some of the album’s later tracks are less successful, like the saccharine “Sing,” where you feel the proliferation of ba-da-da-bums start to grate on you like a Burt Bacharach hangover.


Still, if "Volume Two" starts to drag toward the end, it finishes strong with “If You Can’t Sleep,” which sounds like the most beautiful song never recorded for a 1950s Disney cartoon — it could have been a lost track from the sublime 1988 Disney tribute "Stay Awake."


"Volume Two" is not for everybody, particularly those who prefer their pop loud, brash and challenging (you know who you are). But there’s also sometimes a place for heartening background music to an overcast afternoon (or NPR bumper music), and She & Him are there to provide it unabashedly. And delightfully.


"Volume Two," She & Him, Merge Records, March 23.