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'Rose Ave.' mixes Pink, City and Colour for a muted shade of music

 'Rose Ave.' mixes Pink, City and Colour for a muted shade of music
Musicians Dallas Green and Alecia Moore, better known as Pink, have made a stripped-down emo-folk record under the name You+Me. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Pink knows exactly who she is.

"I'm the treadmill girl," said the pop star famed for such fist-pumping anthems as "Raise Your Glass" and "Get the Party Started." "People listen to Pink when they're at the gym and they need to run harder."

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Yet if that reputation has helped drive a career that's been filled with Grammy nominations, No. 1 singles and platinum-selling albums since the early 2000s — not to mention sold-out arena concerts in which she pulls off some pulse-quickening athletics of her own — the singer born Alecia Moore has long nursed another, less aerobic ambition: "to make a record where people could open a really good bottle of wine and cook dinner for their family," she said.

She's come close to that goal with "Rose Ave.," the debut album from her new project You+Me. A two-person operation pairing Moore with Dallas Green, the Canadian singer-songwriter who performs under the name City and Colour, You+Me plays folky, stripped-down acoustic music built around Green's guitar and the pair's closely braided harmony vocals.

In fact, emotionally intense tunes like "Capsized" and "Break the Cycle," about convincing someone to "let me heal the wounds you've held on to for all these years," may not be as dinner-friendly as Moore thinks. But the unvarnished "Rose Ave.," released this week on RCA Records, represents an undeniable shift from Pink's established persona — and, she says, a welcome opportunity to dial back the celebrity machine that keeps her stardom running.

Introduced years ago through mutual friends, Moore, 35, and Green, 34, had often discussed working together before recording the album earlier this year in Los Angeles. Neither had much time to spare: Green was between road trips with City and Colour (which played Coachella in April), while Moore had just returned home from a world tour behind 2012's "The Truth About Love" and was happy focusing on her husband, motorcycle racer Carey Hart, and their 3-year-old daughter, Willow.

"I feel guilty when I'm away from my kid unless I'm doing something that's meaningful," she said last week in Santa Monica, where You+Me was rehearsing for an intimate, mostly invite-only gig at the Thom Thom Club. "So I gave myself a week with Dallas."

Yet that was all they needed, said Green, who added that the first song he and Moore wrote together — a mournful ballad called "From a Closet in Norway (Oslo Blues)" — was enough "to know that this could really be something. After that, the ideas and the feelings just started coming so fast."

Hunkered down in a recording studio on Rose Avenue near the beach in Venice, the musicians hammered out material in a process that Moore likened to "a conversation where you're both trying to make the same point — as opposed to a normal conversation where you're both trying to prove the other wrong." That approach was familiar to Moore, who has collaborated with a variety of professional songwriters over her career. For Green, though — a solo troubadour who came out of the punk underground — the mind-meld was "a very moving experience."

"I'm terrified of writing down the wrong thing," he said. "And I have way too much to say," interjected Moore. So learning to "just sit with my guitar and play a part," Green went on, "while she'd start singing — that was so liberating."

The two wanted the recording to emphasize "the relationship between our two voices," Green said, and, indeed, the music on "Rose Ave." finds a middle ground between each singer's home turf; it's rustic but soulful, often hushed but peppered with impressive vocal runs, as in the gospel-fied rendition of Sade's "No Ordinary Love" that closes the album.

Moore said the sound reminded her of time she spent singing with her father when she was younger.

"We used to harmonize really, really well together," she recalled. "I haven't harmonized with someone since my dad like I do with Dallas."

That's not the only way "Rose Ave." transported the members of You+Me — scheduled to perform as part of Pink's annual "The Power of Pink" benefit Oct. 23 at the House of Blues — to an earlier era. Making the record out of the public eye and with little thought of its eventual promotion, Green said, "felt like starting over in a way."

"There were no dollar signs, no radio hits, none of that pressure," said Moore, as she sipped lemon-mint water from a canteen. "We were just doing it because we love to sing." Spending a week working quietly on songs with Green, she added, "made sense" after finishing a tour in which she had to be the star of the show every night.

"Everybody has bad days, but you don't get to have a bad day when you're at the center of all that," she said.

So far, RCA's marketing of "Rose Ave." has mirrored the duo's low-key sensibility, with little of the hard-sell fanfare that typically accompanies, say, a new album from Pink. Describing the record as a "discovery project," Tom Corson, the label's president, said the idea was to put the music in front of people (in part through a handful of television appearances), then hope it "populates socially and virally."

Still, Corson added, he fully intends to get a You+Me single on the radio.

Which would probably be just fine with Moore and Green, despite their claim that they'd originally wanted to release the album without their names attached. Commercial success, after all, leads to demand for another record — and that, Moore said, means more time with the man she called her "brother from another mother."

"It does feel very family-oriented now," Green agreed with a laugh. "I think Alecia's just happy she has a guy friend that Carey likes. And my wife loves her."

"It's very intertwined," Moore said. "We're like, 'All right, where are we all going for Thanksgiving?' "

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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