Two New Bay Area Singles To Get You Dancing in the Light from Your Firmly-Closed Windows

Feeling extra trapped, Bay Area? It’s fire season again, and this year, the smoke feels particularly disheartening and apocalyptic. Before the doom sets in, check out the following tracks – they’re guaranteed to provide a little distraction, and may even help you get on your feet.

First up is Sacramento’s Madi Sipes & the Painted Blue, best known for their bedroom-eyed speakeasy tunes that celebrate queer love and heartbreak; they’ve released a remix for their single “Do You Think About Me?” The song is very much what it says on the tin – a moony, Sapphic disco-bop for a crushed-out mixtape. Lead singer Sipes muses on how to snag her chosen lady, explaining, “She made me smile like no other girls,” over a pounding backtrack.

The remix, handled by collaborative musical group Congratulationz, kicks the occasionally somber original into high gear with some Tron-like effects, ascendant EDM pitch builds, and a bubblegum-bass-adjacent drumline. The perfect song for the ’80s party you aren’t allowed to have, the remix takes on a welcome — if unexpected — sense of Menace Lite by putting extra emphasis on the line “promise you won’t put me in your friend-zone/I am not your friend.” In one fell swoop, Lounge Singer Sipes is gone, and Saturday Night Fever Sipes has arrived.

On a sadder — but not necessarily somber — note, is the new single from Oakland’s Shutups, “Death From Behind,” which includes the killer line “I’m a know-it-all/but I don’t know nothing ‘bout this” a perfect opener for a single that appears to be about trying to help someone out of a depressive episode while simultaneously dealing with personal mental health issues. The various instrumentations and shifts in the song are not particularly claustrophobic, but the lyrics are, with the unsettling chorus “I was sleepin’ in to pass the time/when you saw me lyin’/it must have looked like death from behind,” painting a picture of what it’s like to be stuck in close quarters with someone who is struggling to interpret things outside of the lens of their depression.

Despite this, there is a lot of sonic space between the instrumentals, like the beachy guitar that backs the verses. Somehow, these choices transform what could’ve been quite a melancholy song into something that makes you want to get up and thrash, even if it’s just inside your locked-and-sealed bedroom (don’t breathe the outside air, kids). The music video is similarly playful, with Shutups members Mia and Hadley starring as goofy, hapless knights who experience a missed-connection at their duel-to-the-death. Accompanied by some backyard bards and sky friars, the music video should be too silly to work with the heavy subject matter, but it does.

The single is not free-floating — the track will appear on the band’s fifth EP, fittingly titled 5, out October 2 on Kill Rock Stars. The duo has also released a ten-minute video with a repeated sample of one of the EP’s other tracks, “Can You Dance to a Feeling?” featuring a variety of health care professionals and a dancing doctor holding a sign with the song’s title.

Whether or not you can, indeed, dance to a feeling, it’s nice to have a few tracks from Bay Area bands that inspire dance-worthy feelings in such difficult times. Check out these resources to help those directly affected by the fires.

PLAYING THE BAY: Madi Sipes & the Painted Blue Find the Beat of a “Heavy Heart”

Credit where it’s due to Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue for maintaining a consistent aesthetic. The album art for the last few singles look like snapshots from the underground parlor of a lovelorn 1940s tattoo artist who hasn’t skipped a day of adding her beauty mark in the last 10 years. Their latest, “Heavy Heart,” features the same boudoir red-and-blue lighting as the previous follow-ups to their 2018 full-length debut Privacy, but this is the first snap in which a body actually appears, wrapped in comically large chain to represent the weight — both emotional and (seemingly) physical — of romantic attachment.

On first listen, melancholy oozes from the opener, but there is a palpable energy and odd optimism in the lyrics that undercuts the moody guitars and tinkling 80’s piano. Sipes’s voice is deep and rich, sliding through harmonies and call-and-responses in a way that makes me question if this was production magic or if Sipes is, simply, a sort of musical hydra who can create her own chorus of smokey-voiced clones at will.

Its previously-released b-side, “I’ll Be Ready When You Are,” starts out with a very Marvin Gaye-esque riff that carries a hint of the song’s more sensual leanings, despite an early switch to more low-key piano backing. It certainly works in tandem with “Heavy Heart,” but the latter’s more complicated production and glam guitar solo allow Sipes and her bandmates Nick Cunningham (bass, synth) and Caleb Koehn (drums, sampling), to elevate the tune to a more modern place.

This is a sensual piece of work, but the sense of coolness is steadfast, both literally (I love Sipes’s immediately recognizable voice) and sonically. The tones are bright, the beats like the gentle back-and-forth of pool waves. Listening feels like stepping into open space, even with the intimate lyrics.

West Coast residents will have plenty of chances to bask in the band’s sultry neon glow as they embark on their “Daze Off” tour; see dates below.

6/27 – Reno, NV @ Pignic Pub *^
6/29 – Davis, CA @ Sophia’s Thai Kitchen *^
7/2 – Portland, OR @ Strum PDX *^
7/3 – Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Back Bar *^
7/18 – Las Vegas, NV (House Show) *^
7/19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Silverlake Lounge *^
7/21 – San Diego @ The Holding Company*^
7/24 – San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall *^
7/25 – Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub *^+

* w/ @animalsintheatticband
^ w/ @cuginomusic
+ w/ @rivvrs