New Music: Birds & Batteries

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mojo-cover-birdsandbatteries.JPGWho knows where the name came from, but Birds & Batteries is an oddly appropriate moniker for a band whose synthy soundscapes seem to float effortlessly in the air. Okay, the world is full of breathy electro these days, but San Francisco’s B&B approach their keyboards from an unexpected, epic country-rock direction, something they lay out right away by opening their new album, I’ll Never Sleep Again, with an elegiac cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”

The band seem to have started out as a one-man project, as band leader Mike Sempert apparently recorded demos for the first album on his own, then brought in musicians to fill out a live band. While the idea of experimental electronica enhanced by heart-rending pedal steel guitar may seem incongruous, the sound is wholly unified. The band definitely owe a debt to Minnesotans Low, whose recent Drums and Guns brought loops and drum machines into the mix, but Birds & Batteries eschew the traumatized depths the Duluth trio aim for, instead aiming for uptempo grooves like the horn-led, Stereolab-reminiscent “Turnstyles.”

Birds & Batteries have multiple shows scheduled over the next month on the West Coast. Grab three mp3s of tracks from I’ll Never Sleep Again via their website:
– Birds & Batteries – “Ocarina”
– Birds & Batteries – “Star Clusters”
– Birds & Batteries – “Turnstyles”

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“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

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Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

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