Just one listen to Adam Green & Binki Shapiro is enough to become enchanted. With deceptively pretty arrangements that echo filigreed late-sixties folk-pop and an easygoing rapport between singers, this duets collaboration may seem like the perfect accompaniment to a sunny summer’s day, Southern-California style. But it works even better as a comforting soundtrack at the end of a dark, lonely night in the big city. The atmosphere the pair conjures up with strummed guitars and discreet layers of synths indeed suggests romantic possibility, but the lyrics are more sweetly melancholic, gently but candidly addressing betrayal, incipient heartbreak, and conjugal discord. It’s an approach that makes for compelling repeated listening, as the intimate dramas reveal themselves, and it’s one that surprised even Green and Shapiro as their debut album together began to take shape.
On their own, Green and Shapiro have long been notable figures among indie-pop fans, cherished for their off-kilter sensibility (him) and elegantly quirky style (her). As part of New York City’s “anti-folk” scene at the end of the nineties, Adam Green first came to prominence as one-half of Moldy Peaches, his duo with Kimya Dawson that enjoyed belated mainstream success via the Grammy-winning soundtrack of the 2007 indie film Juno. By the time the world had discovered Moldy Peaches, however, Green had already embarked on a solo career as a singer-songwriter, visual artist and filmmaker, enjoying chart success in Europe with idiosyncratic tunes like “Jessica” (a straight-faced lament for Ms. Simpson) and “Emily.”