brand new duracells
Which Duracell? They makes several different types of AA cells. As noted in the FAQ, the current crop of phones needs cells designed for high-drain applications such as the Duracell "UltraPower".
the soldering looks like banned but i assure you nothing is touching
I don't see any shorts. But there are a lot of cold joints which could cause an intermittent connection and the symptoms you see.
Re-touch the solder on each joint. It should have a smooth shiny surface and flow onto both the pin and the pad as in the diagram below. Places where it has balled up around the pin are usually not making good contact with the pad.
If you are using a low-powered (<25W) iron, give it some time to come back up to temperature between joints.