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'Sunlight Daze' Will Help You Get Lost In The Cosmos

Mimicking Birds' Nate Lacy writes songs that creep and unsettle without sacrificing an iota of beauty. "Bloodlines," from 2014, was perhaps that year's best song: an endlessly replayable earworm that never lost its lithe sense of mystery. But aside from a terrific one-off single back in 2015 — and the occasional tour with its longtime friends and collaborators in Modest Mouse — the band has stayed pretty quiet since then.

But on Jan. 26, Mimicking Birds will return with Layers of Us, a third album that loses none of the group's sinister charm. "Sunlight Daze," its first single, is another stunner, as Lacy unleashes a spaced-out missive about getting lost in the cosmos: "There's a lone, sun-bleached highway that inches along between byways," he sings, adding, "Unilluminated, we have no way of knowing what way's which way." It may well be the sexiest song ever to contain the word "ionosphere," though The B-52's might have something to say about that.

"'Sunlight Daze started out as a tiny two-bar loop created on a phone, mainly just the first line of the song," Lacy writes via email. "I always felt as though the progression and melody had a sun-stoned, traveling feel to it — which translated literally through that lyric. We layered a wall of keyboards against a kind of Latin drum and bass feel that propels itself into outer space, and crashes back to Earth.

"This song, and the bulk of 'Layers of Us,' has been powerfully shaped by our travels as a band, and just as much rhythmically, melodically and tonally as it has lyrically. On tour, time seems to stand still — in the songs we play again and again, in the geography we speed past, and in the deep connection that has evolved in sharing this experience together. Although in the same moment it is obvious that time has moved, change is always occurring, new layers are actively accumulating, and our individual awareness of it all is very brief."

Layers of Us comes out Jan. 26.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)