Not Copycats, Just Mimicking Birds

Mimicking Birds are (from left->right) Tim Skellenger, Nate Lacy, and Aaron Hanson. They play The Tractor on Saturday night.
Mimicking Birds' Nate Lacey speaks with a thoughtful softness that betrays the fact he has no idea he's about to become famous. The twenty-five-year-old singer /songwriter returned my call from his cell phone somewhere along the Columbia River. "I'm out hunting mushrooms," he volunteered. It's a statement so stereotypically Portland that I thought for a moment he was messing with me.

"For tripping or dinner?" I asked, impressed by his candor. He assured me his interest was in edible fungi and our conversation quickly turned to his self-titled debut released in March on Glacial Pace Records. The label, headed by Modest Mouse frontman Issac Brock, discovered the talent via MySpace in December 2007 and gained introduction through a mutual friend. By 2009 Lacy recruited drummer Aaron Hanson and guitarist Tim Skellenger to tour opening for the Mouse, a slot for which other up and coming indie artists would commit ritual sacrifice.

Inspired by a series of Lacy's own drawings and paintings and "themes of the impermanent" that he slowly crafted into the album's eleven tracks, Mimicking Birds is a tempered study in melodic expression and tympanic control. The record is laden with heavily punctuated singular percussion, the sweet influence of French pop, occasional weepy strings and vocals that absolutely ache. The songs are beautiful, sad and just plain good. 'Burning Stars' and 'Cabin Fever' possess an appeal so universal you could easily hear them accompanying a lovelorn Gossip Girl montage.

The label's production team, headed by Brock and engineer Clay Jones, tweak Lacy's simple songs with just enough playfulness to tease listeners into paying closer attention. You'll hear samples of vintage instructional records, coins spinning, doors slamming, and ghostly chuckles lingering in the mix. They let the resonating ting of Lacy's fingernails chipping his guitar strings take center stage and lightly layer his whispering vocals to sweep up listeners in its potently haunting effect.

Of course, having someone else's name precede your own on your band's press release is not without its downside. Music fans' feelings about Brock could easily sway their opinion of the band's work. Fortunately Mimicking Birds' music is almost impossible not to like, and they are confident enough to preview the record in its entirety on the Glacial Pace website.

See them in their natural habitat, a hushed club, while you still can.

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