When Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock discovered Mimicking Birds frontman Nate Lacy in the late ’00s and signed him to his then-new label Glacial Pace, Lacy’s musical persona was that of an introverted, artistic stoner with the kind of buzz on that sharpens, rather than dulls, the world. Listening to Mimicking Birds’ self-titled 2010 debut, one could easily picture the fair-skinned singer-songsmith alone in his Portland, Oregon, apartment, plucking out the spiraling, intimate acoustic tunes that caught Brock’s (very valuable) ear and earned the record critical accolades.
What one couldn’t picture was this private, even fragile-seeming artist — who practically breathed into your ear lyrics like, “I’m sure it’s not me, I’m too small/ How could I affect anything at all?” — scaling his music up from bedroom to ballroom (or even barroom). Yet with Mimicking Birds’ sophomore effort, Eons, that’s precisely what Lacy’s done, not only adding two members to the band’s lineup but also greatly expanding his once-sparse sound. It’s an improbable — and thus all the more impressive — evolution.
Whereas Mimicking Birds’ self-titled album seemed to unfurl in some close, internal space, Eons‘ setting is a plein air landscape. Lacy has backed up his fluttering vocals and spacy, yet tight guitar lines — check out the controlled meander of “Water Under Burned Bridges” — with percussion, keys and even occasional electronic instrumentation. (One of the record’s high points is the cascading synthesizer climax of “Moving On.”) Meanwhile, producer Jeremy Sherrer (Gossip, the Dandy Warhols) has lent tracks such as lead single “Bloodlines” a spacious, atmospheric quality. Mimicking Birds’ lyrics have long ruminated on awe-inspiring natural processes, from rivers carving canyons to leaves changing color. The sweeping, fully-realized Eons befits this blossoming group’s sense of scope and wonder.