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Album Review: Birds & Batteries’ Up To No Good

Birds & BatteriesUp To No Good is a complex blend of creepy and dance-y.

Hard to categorize throughout, Michael Sempert’s disaffected and sliding vocals hold this 2009 EP together through five eclectic tracks that bring ominous bass together with psychedelic guitar, creepy keyboard chimes, and distorted whistles. They only break from the task of making the listener feel like he’s lost in the dark by occasionally turning on their dance party floor lights.

This EP is intricate, and lends itself to multiple listening sessions. “The Villain” starts you off feeling alone and confused, with plenty of well-placed synth noise to bolster the freaky guitars and dark lyrics. The excellent harmonies are the lightest part of the song, with the backup voices sounding downright cheery compared to the lead vocalist’s slow drawl. The eerie theme developed in this first track sticks around for most of Up To No Good. Though the short “Lonely Guns” elevates the tone into something more upbeat in preparation for the jaunty third track, “Out in the Woods,” you still hear plenty of those whistling keyboard runs in both tracks (complete with a sudden tempo change or two) to keep you tripping out about the whole experience. There’s even judicious use of that slide whistle sound that makes me think I’ve spotted a UFO, X-Files style.

You know the sound I’m talking about.

“Lightning (UTNC Version)” is their get-up-and-dance track, switching the beat over to a drum machine (or just a well-emulated drum machine feel) that occasionally drops out to leave the vocalist and keyboard on their own. Once I’m reminded to be freaked out, they turn the beat back on. This track is great but it is a partial break from the resonating feel of the rest of the EP. It’s their dark synth-pop moment punctuating the EP’s crescendo before they drop it back down for the final track. If Up To No Good was longer than 20 minutes (and I truly wish it was) I’d expect one or two more songs in this vein, and as it is I’m left wanting more.

Concluding with “Sneaky Times,” they finish up with some compelling vocals that alternately stretch out and rush through the lyrics in between really phenomenal bass lines, bringing us back down from “Lightning” into a slower groove. This is a great final track on a great EP, a good mixture of a funky feel with the unhinged hollowness that I came to expect by the end Up To No Good.

Birds & Batteries never commit themselves completely to any particular genre here, but still end up with a bizarrely cohesive feel that you should definitely experience for yourself. For the San Franciscan with a vehicle, they’ll be playing in Davis on April 10th. I on the other hand, will eagerly wait for a San Francisco show date to materialize.

-Kyle Wheat

Editors Note:  Birds and Batteries Up To No Good can be purchased digitally at iTunes.  For a hard copy contact Birds and Batteries here.

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The Blank Tapes: Home Away From Home free download

For a limited time, The Blank Tapes are offering their fourth full length release, Home Away From Home as a free download. The 10-track album includes a couple recognizable songs, Driving Out Of My Mind and We Can Do What We Want To, that have been played in The Blank Tapes shows from the past year as well as the slightly gritty Black Hair and Don't Mind which features a very catchy melody played on ukulele.

You can download your own copy of the album here. Catch them at Amnesia Bar on Thursday, April 1st playing with Shakes, Pony Village (from Portland) and Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt.

-Nicole Leigh

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Jim Marshall 1936-2010

Last week, the Bay Area lost long time San Francisco resident and photographer Jim Marshall. Jim  helped shape the image and record the history of rock and roll in the 60's and 70's. If you recall ever seeing iconic images of Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival or Johnny Cash giving the camera the finger at a San Quentin prison performance, then you've seen some of Jim's work. In addition to his documentary style portrait photography, Marshall also shot over 500 album covers. He was known to be as rebellious as the figures he captured and was an important part of the legacy of Bay Area music.

You can check out a virtual collection of his work at www.marshallphoto.com

-Nicole Leigh

Photo courtesy of Scott Sommerdorf

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The Deli SF's Weekend Highlights For 3/25-3/28

While many of you may be out of town this week for SXSW, or perhaps on some other well deserved spring vacation, for those still around there are a few good shows this coming weekend that should be worth your attention.

On Thursday the 25th Epic Sauce will be putting on it's second show in it's new series at Milk. Starting around 8pm several groups (including Neon Indian - headlining with a DJ set) will put on what is promised to be an epic dance party. Though Boyz IV Men and Sweat Wet (who apparently are anti-myspace) are the only local representation, this show is certainly worth a mention as those sauce-y folks over there are really trying to get something interesting started with this series.

You're a damn fool if Hemlock isn't your destination on Friday for Spencey Dude and the Doodles. They will be playing with The Aerosols and The Coathangers, and with a line up like that this will surely be an exciting and rocking show, 9:30pm.

Of course if down-tempo is your flavor for the weekend then there is something just for your pallet. Head up to Kimo's Saturday night for 7 Orange ABC who will be sharing a bill with Meta, 9pm.

Lastly on Sunday, the Rickshaw will be hosting the Young Prisms with a roster of other out of town bands including Pictureplane, Small Black, and Washed Out. Young Prisms are fresh back from a tour and definitely worth seeing. From the Rickshaw site it looks like the show may be sold out, but if you can scuttle yourself a ticket you won't be disappointed.

Looks to be a good weekend shaping up. Hope you can make it out for some of these events, or if not then to the many others that are also going on in the next few days.

-Ada Lann

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SXSW day 5 - some of the best Austin Bands

The final day of SXSW 2010 moved in slow motion. Indescribably exhausted, I meandered through a more suburban part of town to Domy Books for the “What by Whatever Day Party.” In the backyard, the sunshine beamed down on a wooden stage that bounced with ever band, beginning with The Eastern Sea (bottom picture), a folksy seven-piece from Austin. Following them were fellow Austinites, The Frontier Brothers, whose vibrant energy radiated and awakened me from my zombie state. Last but not least, The Bright Light Social Hour (top picture) substantiated their recent award from the Austin Chronicle for the “Best Indie Band” (They should also win “Funniest Band.”), closing my SXSW on a high note. Final thought about SXSW 2010: fantastic event, great experience, I only wish venues in Austin were bigger: I had a great schedule planned out but I was unable to get into a lot of shows even with a wristband because they were too crowded... I guess everyone had the same bands in mind! - Meijin Bruttomesso

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