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  We've Been Lost  
  The Layaways  
  Mystery Farm Records  
Release Date:
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I confessed last year that the first album by The Layaways, More Than Happy, was a record which took some time to grow on me. Lush, yet quiet, the songs on that album struck me at first as being good background material. Bur, after repeated listens, I realized that I was in fact actively paying attention to the music. Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that I had almost the exact same disinterested reaction to The Layaways' new album, We've Been Lost.

The biggest immediate change evident is that lead Layaway David Harrell has finally rounded his act out with a full band. More importantly, he shares the songwriting and vocal duties with bassist Mike Porter. Therefore, the sound of The Layaways varies widely from song to song, although each retains an element of the richness which permeated the first album. However, at times, We've Been Lost seems like the natural progression of a maturing and expanding band.

The album begins with Silence, a vague Jesus and Mary Chain-esque tune filled with guitar distortion and Harrell's Reid-like vocal style. When it hits the chorus, there is a little more Magnapop-esque jangle that never goes into complete overdrive. Easily one of the better songs on the album, which particular shows off the live drumming of Nathan Burleson. This is followed by The Long Night, which immediately harkens back to The Layaways' sound of yore. More interestingly, the primary vocal melody appears to be carried by Porter, although Harrell doubles him in a lower, softer pitch. It's a solid song, but one that didn't particular catch my interest.

Lying and Stealing picks up the pace. Written by Porter, this is more like a straight up rock sing, with less jangle or fuzz. Still, underneath it all, you still have the lightness and driving rhythms of a typical song by this band. The most unfortunate aspect of Lying and Stealing is the loudness of the vocal mix. Porter's voice overwhelms the sound, which is perhaps intended, but it feels less experienced than the Harrell-centric songs.

The title track is another Harrell tune, which again has the light meandering pace of his typical song. Still more typically, it is rounded out by layers of instruments and Harrell's almost lost vocals. It's quite nice, and is perhaps one of the better and more organic sounding tracks on the album. Splendor and Loss continues with this tone as it begins softly with a picked guitar. The vocals are well mixed, although sung by Porter. To me, it's reminiscent of an early 70s country rock song, although the relative softness and the waves of noise underneath the main melody fit in better overall with the sound of The Layaways.

Harrell returns with The Answer, which has a thudding drumbeat that comes to the forefront. Then, the ever present soft jangle begins as a backing to Harrell's light voice. This is what More Than Happy was all about and, if you liked that, I think you'd certain enjoy this tune. Most importantly, this song has a nice backing melodic riff which feels like a keyboard and is both lovely and catchy.

Nothing Left to Burn and Just a Dream are both Porter written tracks. Nothing Left to Burn is not surprisingly bass heavy, with a nice hushed vocal by Porter himself. It builds to precise chorus with a few oddly placed vocal notes at the end. In contrast, Just a Dream begins with a strummed acoustic guitar and a sample beneath it. One might compared the song to White Album era Beatles, if only because of the echo, the occasional strange chord progression, and the building waves of guitar and drums at the end. It's what many people would consider psychedelic influenced, but in that softer, acoustic sense.

Every Time We Try goes back to Harrell, whose songwriting and vocal style I usual prefer, although this one is not a particularly good example. It doesn't immediately move in to the signature jangle, and Harrell's voice is up front and little more wavery than usual. The song feels awkward, despite a really nice tension building guitar riff and musically cathartic chorus. And, after another song by Porter, We've Been Lost ends with a Harrell track called Contagious. If Silence was a solid and happy opener, then Contagious provides a nice outro. More than any other song, Contagious looks back to The Layaways' past, and yet it is stronger than almost anything on that first album. In particular, this is the song that immediately grabbed me and led me to rediscover this album.

Certainly, We've Been Lost demonstrates some growing pains. Many of the songs and mixes aren't as fluid as they were on the previous release. And, it seems clear that Harrell and Porter's songwriting style have not completely melded into one yet. On the other hand, there are outstanding tracks here and, as I go through further listens, I find something new I like in almost every track. I'm not sure why The Layaways in particular take so long to completely grow on me, but I do know that if you're willing to let this album percolate, you'll likely find it to be a rewarding listen.

Related Links:

More Than Happy, the previous album from The Layaways.


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