REVIEW: ADAM GREEN & BINKI SHAPIRO – ADAM GREEN & BINKI SHAPIRO (2013)
Over roughly the last decade, Adam Green has released seven solo albums. He, however, is still best known for being one-half of the self-proclaimed anti-folk group, The Moldy Peaches. Green along with Kimya Dawson formed the New York group in the late 1990s and the band reached moderate independent success during its span until an indefinite hiatus in 2004. Due to the abrupt popularity stemming from their song, “Anyone Else But You” and its placement in the 2007 breakout film, “Juno,” the duo reunited for select shows and appearances in 2007 and 2008.
Binki Shapiro’s resume is a little more streamlined, but no less respected. The Los Angeles musician is one-third of the supergroup Little Joy. Along with Strokes drummer, Fabrizio Moretti, and Rodrigo Amarante, vocalist and guitarist of the Brazilian band, Los Hermanos, the three released a much-beloved, charmingly breezy debut album in 2008.
So how does Green in New York and Shapiro in Los Angeles come together to make a duets album? The two apparently began their friendship back in 2009 while Green was opening for Little Joy on their Brazilian tour. There’s always been admiration for each other’s music, so when the idea of a duets album came up, they ran with it. The two singer-songwriters wrote independently in their home cities as well as ventured cross country to collaborate on the debut’s songs. Both musicians were going through recent breakups at the time of the writing process, so the project became a creative outlet for those lingering feelings and emotions that often are ever-present.
Clocking in at just over 27 minutes, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro is about as pleasant and soothing as a duets album can be. The album’s first track “Here I Am” was released several months back and its adorable, melodic attractiveness was a good indicator of what was in store for the full album.
Most of the songs on Adam Green & Binki Shapiro showcase the two musicians building off of catchy ’60s pop arrangements. Throughout the album, Green and Shapiro harmonize beautifully, both together and separately, over whimsical hooks and honest, thoughtful lyrics.
On “Don’t Ask For More” Shapiro takes an angelic stance similar to her lead moments in Little Joy, especially reminiscent of the trio’s late-album gem, “Don’t Watch Me Dancing.” “Don’t ask for more/ I’d said I stay/Be with me now/ Let’s see who we are Saturday,” Shapiro directs on the cautionary tale of love flirting with its last days. She equally shines on the soft-brooding lead of “Casanova.”
On “Pity Love” Green ties in some of the quirkiness that he’s been known for over the years. However in doing so, he keeps most of the goofiness at bay, and manages to keep lyrics honest without being distracting. On the track, Green sings “I wish you’d not have me/ Defective to the point/ That always left your boyfriends laughing.” It’s a distinct and authentic reaction. Relationships and breakups are obviously common themes in all genres of music, so it’s refreshing to see a unique wording of a familiar situation.
As far as the tracks Green and Shapiro sing on together, none are as effortless as “Just To Make Me Feel Good.” Both singers go back and forth on their personal stances, only to harmoniously collide on the closing chorus. It’s a upbeat, drum-driven tune that highlights what makes a duet so great. “What’s the Reward” is another dueling standout; it starts out with a sparingly-slow, smoky tempo but cascades into a psychedelic instrumental free fall— a welcome shift in an album that incorporates mostly pop melodies.
So is it more like The Moldy Peaches, Little Joy, or one of Adam Green’s infinite solo albums? If I had to pick one, I would say Little Joy, only because Shapiro’s voice is wonderfully prominent on many of the songs of Adam Green & Binki Shapiro. In fact, I always wish Shapiro had more leads on the Little Joy songs, so for fans wishing the same, this album is a must listen.
And as far as it goes for fans of The Moldy Peaches and Adam Green, I don’t believe Adam Green & Binki Shapiro will disappoint. There may be no Jessica Simpson songs on the duets album, but with that said, it gives Green’s genuine sentiments a chance to not be overshadowed by distracting lyrical details. It creates a much more accessible sound for him, but it’ll be up to longtime Adam Green fans to decide if that’s a better sound.