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In 1998 Adam Green left Emerson College (it’s true!) after a semester to form The Moldy Peaches with Kimya Dawson. Although the band parted ways in 2004, the two truly had a charming run, perhaps reaching their apex when their song “Anyone Else But You” was featured in the 2007 award winning film Juno. Since the break, however, Green has released seven solo albums, dabbling in genres vast and varied, though never quite as solid as his work with Dawson.
Meanwhile, Binki Shapiro was killing it on the sidelines as a gracefully enigmatic vocalist in Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes and Rodrigo Amarante’s Brazilian band, Little Joy. Even though she was only truly featured the song “Unattainable” from Little Joy’s single self-titled album, her retro-simplicity and earnest sound became one of the most endearing aspects of the band.
After a series of half-meetings and texts, Green paired with Shapiro in 2012 to release a tantalizing three song EP Fall, tease with a tiny tour, and finally gave us the pleasure of this full-length album of modern love songs titled Adam Green & Binki Shapiro on January 29th this year.
The album first opens with, “Here I Am,” a track initially released on Fall, that uses gentle guitarring to pave the way for Shapiro’s effortless feminine entrance. Unlike her largely unappreciated position in Little Joy, here she really steps center stage as Green seems to dance around her instrumentally and vocally, providing a steady echo to her musings. “I won’t let my endings keep me / from you again / I won’t be kept from you again,” the two sing, intertwining throughout.
Almost reminiscent of Nico from the Velvet Underground, Shapiro embodies an unexpected depth and strength that’s actually a big part of what makes the Adam Green & Binki Shapiro work so well. It’s intimate, but not overwhelmingly so. Romantic, but not sugar-sweet.
“Pleasantries” ventures a bit into the sweetly taunting, call and response territory of Johnny Cash and June Carter, but the duo makes even that work with upbeat instrumentals and jaunty juxtapositions of a Disney-trilling flute in combination with Shapiro’s somehow sweet sardonicism. She sings, “can’t be the first to say you’re the worst / surely there’s one or two” and Green’s response, “I care more if you act as though you like me / then if you really do.”
At times the duo certainly does get heavy, singing “put your claws away, I think I’ve had enough today” or “everybody, everybody’s cheating on each other” but Green’s gruff charm coupled with Shapiro’s femininity presents this heartache in an ever-accessible, empathetic manner. At first listen, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro feels absolutely carefree, but one of the most beautiful things this album does is introduce negativities not often discussed in simple love songs.
Adam Green seems to be right back at home preforming with a partner again, and Binki Shapiro is finally being recognized as the talented artist she is. Although their relationship is apparently unromantic, at the record’s end you’ll be rooting for them with everything you have.