Considering everything that’s happened over the past few months, it would certainly seem that the world is currently more ready for a new Adam Green record than ever before. Everyone knows the story by now: ‘Anyone Else But You’, a song by his former band, the Moldy Peaches, was featured prominently in the film Juno, when Ellen Page and the kid from Arrested Development sang it to each other at the end. People everywhere fell in love, even people who (ok, mostly people who) don’t know much of anything. As word continued to spread, the Moldy Peaches (Green and Kimya Dawson) decided to reunite for just long enough to play the song on The View. Then Diablo Cody won the award for Best Screenplay at the Oscars, and everything got a little bit crazier. As a result, Green’s star is shining brighter than ever, and he’s got the attention of more people than ever seemed possible.
This is nice, obviously, but what must be noted is that when the people who know him primarily from the Juno debacle figure out what he’s actually all about, they’re going to be really, really confused.
It’s entirely possible that I’ll lose points for this, but I think ‘Anyone Else’ is a pretty wonderful song. It’s a lighthearted duet wherein a man and a woman exchange lines explaining why their relationship is meant to be. There are some jokes, and it’s a little bit silly, but with a refrain of “I don’t see what anyone can see in anyone else,” its message is pretty clear. Two people seem genuinely to like each other, and they state it in the simplest of terms, first through a series of lines that sound like private jokes, then through a single, plainspoken declaration.
This type of emotional forthrightness has never exactly been Green’s forte. He and the Peaches were part of the initial Williamsburg music explosion of the early 2000s, when, for better or worse, irony was very much the stock in trade. Then 9/11 happened, and after an approximately two-week-long bout with emotional and artistic earnestness, it was back to business as usual, only the constant eye-rolling and striking detachment seemed even more pronounced than usual.
And this is pretty much how Green rolled for years. With the release of Sixes & Sevens, he’s five albums into a solo career, and it’s not entirely clear that he’s ever actually meant anything. Perhaps it’s his deep, steady baritone, which sounds like the musical equivalent of a wink, or perhaps it’s his propensity for in-song jokes and the occasional nonsensical lyric, but he’s always sounded distinctly like he’s just sorta messing around with all of us.
It also might be his constant desire to explore different genres, which he fulfills more shamelessly — and expertly — on Sixes & Sevens than ever before. It’s not difficult to imagine his stylistic schizophrenia being interpreted as just another joke, akin to stupid pop-punk or emo bands engaging in overblown metal riffage, but it would certainly be a mistake. What saves Green from seeming too much like a novelty artist is that if there’s anything he’s not kidding about, it’s his genuine love for different types of music. On the new album, he does old-timey country music on ‘Drowning Head First’ and ‘Grandama Shirley and Papa’, the latter of which features some of his most assured vocals ever. ‘Tropical Island’ sounds like a They Might Be Giants song recorded, well, on a tropical island. ‘Be My Man’ is a dead ringer for a Modern Lovers song, one of Green’s longest- running musical touchstones. At various points on the record, he’s backed by an honest-to-goodness gospel choir, which gives his otherwise unornamented songs a likable sheen. They join him most notably on ‘Morning After Midnight’, an impossibly catchy soul/funk-tinged track that stands as the album’s highest point, though for a record featuring 20 songs, there really aren’t too many blatant low points.
Still, Sixes & Sevens probably isn’t the record newcomers want it to be. Nothing on it is quite as obvious in its sentiment as ‘Anyone Else’ is, and it’s a far cry from the simple, lo-fi twee that’s experiencing a bit of a rebirth at the moment. It’s a record that’s rich with melodies, though, and it’s a record that, in its own very subtle way, might actually be surprisingly earnest, if only in its insistence that music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that isn’t confined by any rigid style-guide can be just as powerful as anything else.