Adam Green & Binki Shapiro
The first album of summer 2013 has landed in January - and it doesn't sound like 2013 at all. The album up for debate is a collection of sweet, succinct indie-pop ballads that has two cult figures of the US music scene, one male and one female, joining hands for a skip back through time to the hazy, lazy days of the 60s. He's Adam Green, the male component of the hip-to-be-square The Moldy Peaches; she's Binki Shapiro, singer for the overlooked Little Joy, a band spearheaded by Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes. The Strokes connection applies to Green too, who has previously toured with the band; however, while Julian and co. revived garage rock overnight with Is This It, Adam Green & Binki Shapiro aim simply, softly but swiftly, for the heart.
It's a record that's easy to become enamoured with, as it glides by effortlessly, conjuring up images of flower-haired and lovelorn youth all within its 30-minute running time. For albums like this to work, either one half has to boldly take the lead or the two voices need to blend effortlessly, and it's a case of the latter here. Following an intro that hints at 'Heroes', 'Just to Make You Feel Good' instead seamlessly morphs into a whimsical charmer, Green and Shapiro acting as sparring lovers and trading shots before sharing the line, "I don't have to do everything twice just to make you feel nice". The musical tone sets the scene for the rest of the record, guitar and 'Be My Baby' drums guiding the way for sweet singalong melodies and subtle blasts of interesting instrumentation, whether that be brass or woodwind or woozy synth sounds.
Thankfully though, it's not one-note and remains comprehensive, both good things considering the condensed length. Shapiro's moment to shine is undoubtedly 'Casanova', a Nico-does-Dusty torch song that pits her against Zooey Deschanel in terms of retro-throwback talent; however, unlike She & Him, where M. Ward rarely steps from behind a guitar to lend vocals, it's the interplay between the two voices that lifts the record. Green sounds like a more innocent Nick Cave or a grizzled Charlie Fink (of Noah & the Whale), his vocal interactions with Shapiro shifting between humorous ("Everybody's cheating on each other" they declare hopelessly on 'Pity Love') and stirring, as on the widescreen Nancy/Frank-style closer 'The Nighttime Stopped Bleeding'.
'Pleasantries' is the breakout though: pure Juno-bait, this delightfully light-footed (or infuriatingly twee, if you're having a bad day) flute-aided back-and-forth between our leading lady and gent is sure to pop up on the soundtrack of at least one mumblecore romance before the year is out. Be one of the first to spread the word and help melt the snow in the process with this lovely sun-drenched kiss of a record.