Birds & Batteries – Panorama

Birds & Batteries – Panorama

The steady drive of experimentation comes from a band’s skill at knowing when it’s time to progress. Most bands often get stale before they’re able to capitalize on flourishing moments where everything comes together. San Francisco band Birds & Batteries have recently discovered what it means to be striking at the right time. With Panorama, the psychedelic quartet conjures a diverse sound that nods to the music of the 80s, just as much as it lives and dies on the synthesizer. Their newest album is neither an extension nor follow up to previous albums but rather, a new direction that hopefully sees its full fruition.

If the newest sound of synths, warbling keyboards and the swarm of Supertramp is the kind of music that you miss, Birds & Batteries are certainly the kind of band for you. Sometimes, like on the lead single “Strange Kind of Mirror,” singer Michael Sempert and co. deliver an exuberantly smooth guitar and drum combination that is both easygoing and entertaining. The simplicity comes in the way of the band being able to scale down the walls, whereas on something ethereally mysterious like “The Villain,” Sempert is coolly suave as his bandmates deliver a bass-driven, 80s club hit. The synths wash over the escalated patterns and the song’s slow-moving verses allow for full advantage on combing the chords over. Sempert sounds like a sly combination of Britt Daniel and Morrissey as he sings “I believe in the villain, I believe in the thief who steals what he is given and holds it in his teeth.” But it’s these kinds of arrangements and methods that spring up all over on Panorama.

And speaking of the open clearing of sky – like the mountainous one depicted on the cover – the album’s title track opens the record with a synthesized production that surrounds the band’s electronically-heavy instrumentation. In some ways, the sound comes off as a dated version of 80s-style ELO and the David Bowie stylings they’re seamlessly striving for but with less than underwhelming melodies. Like “Raincheck,” the tiniest of modifications are barely heard and mostly, the majority of the music rides a stagnant wave of bubbling synths. Still, in comparison to the kind of music they made on last year’s Up to No Good, Panorama flashes with maturation and growth. On the latter song, before simply ebbing on the flow they’ve created, the addition of various sounds and especially the Queen-esque touches at the end, all make for something far more startling. As easygoing as the music wants to be, Birds & Batteries are capable of much more.

But perhaps this is exactly where Birds & Batteries hoped to be at, now this far down their career. There is still plenty to expand and expound off but for what Panorama reaches for, it succeeds through most of its interesting efforts. And for Sempert and his long-time crew, maybe that just means cranking out a completely different new album the next time out. For now, there’s plenty to rejoice in here.

“Strange Kind of Mirror” by Birds & Batteries

Velvet Blue Music / Spune