PREMIERE: Mike Sempert strikes gold on his own – Coming to the Rickshaw Stop May 14th

05/02/2014

Maybe it’s because Mike Sempert and I are ascending into adulthood at roughly the same time that his album Mid Dream – devoted to this transition, and set to be released May 6 on the Velvet Blue Music label – strikes such a chord. What else is it really that touches us in music though? Isn’t it when, in the midst of a human moment, an artist describes that moment so well that everyone listening who is also in that moment has to scream yes yes yes? To Mid Dream I scream yes yes yes!

After 10 or so years fronting Birds & Batteries, with great local success and a good foothold on the next rung up, Sempert’s struck out on his own. It’s 2014. I have a kid. He’s married. We’re both getting lusciously, ripely into adulthood. Life is more complicated here, and Mid Dream speaks to this with a wise and humble eye.

Not to say his earlier music lacked these, but there’s a clarity and importance to this album. His almost-warbly voice sings distinctly out in front of lush textures and impeccably curated instrumentation (most of which Mike plays himself). The album features the otherworldly backing vocals of local chanteuses Sonya Cotton, Kacey Johansing, and Emily Ritz, keen pop-sensibilities, and poetry. But it’s not all shut-up-and-listen; “Good Morning Young Artist,” for example, lives up to its lyrics by making me want to jump out of bed and start making beautiful things.

Check out this non-album version – an SFCritic premiere! – of my favorite track on the album “Finest Line:”

Sempert’s coming back to San Francisco soon after the album drops – playing the Rickshaw Stop on May 14th. He’ll have his old Birds & Batteries rhythm section (Jill Heinke and Colin Fahrer) along with, I hope, at least a handful of the killer line up from the album since almost all of them come from Oakland.

Expect less of the old B&B sound, that weirdly-awesome electro-pop, and more of a washing-over-you sound, rich with harmonies, that puts Mike right out front. In fact, he returns to the image of the ocean a lot in this album, and it’s an apt metaphor for him as an artist: ever-changing, but reliably, consistently powerful.

I’ll definitely be at this show.

The harmony-laden surf-folk band Farallons supports:

Kacey Johansing opens with her indelible voice and songs that blend lyrical-folk and easy-on-the-ears pop into a masterful soundscape: