It’s not easy being melancholy—well not sincerely, anyway. Nowadays introspection, heartache, and sorrow feel less gutty and more manufactured. Though sad songs are nothing new, their newfound marketability is. As such, many artists now produce work that’s “sad” for the sake of being “sad.” However, despite this somewhat conscious shift, there are some that continue to construct work brimming with sincerity and authenticity. Enter Mimicking Birds.
Portland, Oregon’s Mimicking Birds offer listeners a masterful blend of lo-fi sensibilities that’s rooted in folk and polished with indie rock. While many artists often attempt to marry these genres, few do it with the precision found woven throughout this quintet’s body of work.
This attention to detail is most likely connected to the original intent of the outfit—i.e. to house the work of singer/guitarist Nate Lacy. However, in 2008, the band signed to Isaac Brock’s (Modest Mouse) label, Glacial Pace Recordings. Since then, Lacy has taken on company and expanded his sound to include additional guitars, keys, and percussion.
Mimicking Birds generally stick to a standard structure within their work. Most tracks revolve around a reoccurring melody barbed with finger picked guitars, ambient swells, and minimalist percussion. Though often systematic, songs never feel stale or recycled. Inversely, they progress and build off of one another pretty seamlessly—which lends a nice organic layer to their tonal identity.
Lacy and company work together to craft soundscapes that are both densely and sparsely populated when necessary. Also, while the quintet may be all kinds of melancholy, their weighty and maudlin overtones are never paralyzing. Alternatively, they come across as familiar and sincere, which makes for an even more engrossing listen.
Overall, Mimicking Birds digest accessible structures, familiar themes, and revolving melodies to produce a grounded and explorative sound. In doing so, the quintet is sure to satisfy fans of Iron & Wine and Bright Eyes as much as fans of Modest Mouse and Built to Spill.
Though the band has been quiet in the years following their 2010 self-titled record, 2014 finds them teasing a new album and new tour dates—including a run through Austin, Texas’s famed South by Southwest (SXSW) festival.
Article by Michael Ventimiglia