THE GOOD: Northwest indie rockers Mimicking Birds come back with a placid third.
THE BAD: Not really.
THE NITTY GRITTY: What started out as a solo outlet for singer/guitarist Nate Lacy has become a proper band for a couple of records now. “Layers” continues the trio’s logical progression; a spacey work made of fragile melodies and pastoral settings that still manages to let a bit of genuine rock sneak into the mix.
On the surface, the songs are seamless, ebbing and flowing on waves so gentle they’re damn near hypnotic. What keeps the album from becoming straight up “dream pop” though is the backdrops. Punchy rhythms and electric guitars constantly remind you that this IS a rock album (and not only in spirit).
Warm and cozy tracks like “Sunlight Daze” and “Belongings” are blessed with Lacy’s tender vocals and just enough echo to take the edge off any jagged riffs. However, these songs carry the forward momentum necessary to keep us from completely drifting off into the ether.
BUY IT?: Sure.

THE VACCINES – ‘Combat Sports’ 
THE GOOD: British indie rockers the Vaccines regroup and release its fourth.
THE BAD: Changes…some good, some dull.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The band’s line-up shuffled (a pair of touring musicians are now full-fledged members), the Vaccines continue to refine its sound. Keyboards are more prominent and the guys have smoothed over some of the rough edges. But is that a good thing?
Those big bold hooks remain intact. It’s tough to ignore the slamming melodies carrying songs like “Put It on a T-Shirt” and “Maybe (Luck of the Draw).” Still, the Vaccines’ most exciting work is spread across its first two more visceral records – 2011’s “What Did You Expect” and 2012’s “Come of Age.”
If they continue in this direction, the band risks losing all that made them distinct in the first place (can you say Wombats?). “Combat Sports” hasn’t gone THAT far yet, but it should make long-time fans cautious about the future. Hopefully, the fifth album gets a shot of pure adrenaline.
BUY IT?: Your choice.

MATT AND KIM – ‘Almost Everyday’
THE GOOD: Brooklyn indie duo Matt and Kim come back with a brief wandering sixth.
THE BAD: Some songs work. Others feel incomplete.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The record was written and recorded while Kim Schifino recovered from a serious knee injury. That could have influenced the creation of more introspective pieces and less party anthems. Tracks such as “Like I Used to Be” and “Happy If You’re Happy” hail from a mellower place than usual. But you still get thumping forceful bangers such as the frustrated “Forever” and the slick “Glad I Tried.”
Yet, other cuts feel like unfinished throwaways. There’s a germ of an idea running through “All in My Head” that goes nowhere. Multi-chapter closer “Where Do We Go from Here” is TOO open-ended; a beginning with no logical conclusion. Plus there are a lot of GUESTS (Blink 182, Walk the Moon, Santigold, etc.) whose contributions feel wholly unnecessary (and in many cases are barely noticeable).
BUY IT?: Your call.