The Layaways
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The Layaways

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""A wonderfully crafted recording built around tasteful songwriting and musicianship...""

With the Layaways’ release of More Than Happy in 2003, guitarist David Harrell showcased the broad scope of his musical influences by crafting a distinctive voice for the album. Melding a variety of sonic themes, Harrell drew immediate references to the Cure and the Jesus and Mary Chain as he echoed many of the finer aspects of ‘90s Brit Pop. His approach was thoughtful and melodic, resulting in a satisfying debut recording and decidedly high hopes for the future. Now little more than a year later, the Layaways’ sound has matured into something increasingly special, with Harrell forsaking the one-man band approach by sharing vocal and writing chores with bassist Mike Porter.

We’ve Been Lost picks up where its predecessor left off, offering 11 tracks of breezy enjoyment, shedding the aforementioned comparisons as it is unencumbered by any of Robert Smith’s brooding or JaMC’s flair for often directionless experimentation. The album holds a precarious balance between Harrell’s and Porter’s contrasting singing styles, as the songs ebb and flow without overshadowing one another. Opening with the ironically titled “Silence”, Harrell conjures memories of Dream Academy’s “Northern Town” as he combines breathy vocals and distortion to envelop listeners and gently whisk them away. Similar results are achieved on the title track, as well as “The Answer” and “Every Time We Try”, as Harrell sings over a seamless tapestry of chiming guitars and unobtrusive percussion.

The sensual calm that Harrell creates is furthered by “The Long Night” with Porter assuming lead duties. The haunting quality of his vocals is accented by the precision of ringing chords, combining to form a light-hearted somberness that won’t elicit spontaneous weeping but rather a discernibly uncomfortable comfort. It is the kind of sad that somehow feels right. A similar sensibility is incorporated into “Nothing Left to Burn” as a subtle bass line gives way to a well placed guitar solo midway through, adding the ideal amount of energy to keep the song afloat.

The album takes an abrupt detour with “Lying and Stealing” and “Splendor and Loss” as each harkens back to Pete Townshend’s mid-’70s solo efforts. The former resembles material from the Rough Mix collaboration with Ronnie Lane; its carefully constructed guitar hooks make it a relaxing drive down a country road, yet it remains jaunty enough to prevent one from falling asleep at the wheel. The latter finds Porter losing himself somewhere in the acoustic splendor of “I’m One” and “Sheraton Gibson”.

The album is not without a pair of attractive surprises: “Just a Dream” melds acoustic folk with Oasis-like six-string pop to create something uniquely Layaways, while “Bombs Away” unapologetically shadows the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” with some obvious traces of the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon”.

After creating such an interesting aural panorama, Harrell closes We’ve Been Lost the same way he opened it, with equal helpings of fluidity and distortion, and just of hint of desperate yearning in his vocals. The elliptical album structure is nothing new to Layaways fans, as it brought More Than Happy full circle in a similar fashion.

The greatest value to We’ve Been Lost? Simply being what all good albums should strive for: A wonderfully crafted recording built around tasteful songwriting and musicianship without sounding heavy handed.

- PopMatters

""It's gorgeous, dreamy pop with hooks galore...""

"The Layaways favor a less noisy approach to their brand of moody Indie-pop, preferring to craft swirling melodies with classic Indie-rock changes that appear exactly when they should. Opening track 'Silence' recalls Jesus and Mary Chain the most, and it's by far the most rocking song on the album. It's pretty much perfect, with a hooky chorus that sticks to your brain immediately. As good as 'Silence' and the rest of the songs on 'We’ve Been Lost' are, 'The Answer' is THE song here, and the one that probably will have you stuck to the repeat button for a while. It's gorgeous, dreamy pop with hooks galore and some nice harmony vocals on the chorus that seem to announce that it's summer, you're in love, and everything is right with the universe. Who doesn’t want to feel like that?"

""An untamed growl of guitar noise lays at the heart of this pop confection...""

An untamed growl of guitar noise lays at the heart of this pop confection, like a bit of crunchy frog sealed within succulent Swiss chocolate, as it were. It's a simple song, but the vibe works well for me, a vibe constructed through a combination of an appealing melody and a knowing ability to romp through some of the choicer specimens in rock'n'roll's sonic back catalog: from Jesus and Mary Chain-esque squalls of sound to Yo La Tengo-ish understated vocalizing to (this is the kicker, for me) a Cars-like use of catchy synthesizer riffs. While I'm generally all for the '80s touches that seem to be inspiring lots of today's independent bands, I particularly enjoy when there's integration going on rather than re-creation, however exuberant. - Fingertips Music

""...songs [that] will have you gazing at your shoes in blissful content for most of the set.""

"The Layaways have the dreamy, drone-y Jesus-and-Mary-Chain Britrock schtick down pat -- not an easy thing for a local band to pull off. This is the CD release party for their latest, We've Been Lost, whose songs will have you gazing at your shoes in blissful content for most of the set."
-- Time Out Chicago (Recommended Show) - Time Out Chicago

""...when they get together to write music, it’s magic.""

Oh yes! When the pop is good, it is oh so good and The Layaways bringing poppy goodness to the table in a fresh and interesting way. Hailing from Chicago, this trio brings Lassie Foundation style pop with fantastic 80’s embellishments. I hear the Psychedelic Furs, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu, the Velvet Underground, and Gene Loves Jezebel in the crags and cracks of this band’s influences. Nathan Burleson (drums, percussion, and vocals), David Harrell (vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboards), and Mike Porter (vocals, bass, guitar and percussion) make up this power pop trio and, apparently, when they get together to write music, it’s magic.

The Layaway’s second disc, We’ve Been Lost, begins with walls of sound and driving bass and percussion. This song has the feeling of Flesh for Lulu if they had been making music as a shoegaze influenced band. It is as if the brilliance of the underground brit-pop of the 80’s was being channeled through this trio with updated sounds and perfect pop execution. “The Long Night” begins with soft guitar picking and displays fantastic bass work. This song has all the feeling of a 70’s pop song ala The Billions. This displays the diversity of this band: more than one lead singer. I only wish they would have made a listing in their cd jacket of who did what on which song. This song has a melancholy feel to it that is endearing. “Lying and Steeling” starts of with that driving pop sound that gets you mov’n and shak’n. It has a rock feel to the vocals and is certainly more raw vocally than the previous tracks.

“We’ve Been Lost” starts with electronic drums and is accented with fuzzy guitars and those fantastic Nick Marsh style vocals. There are fanciful tambourines and the bass work really is solid. It’s a fantastic, short pop song that one would have heard in the 80’s on World Famous KROQ in Los Angeles and been full of joy at the hearing! “Splendor and Lost” begins with a fuzzy wall of sound and then has acoustic guitar and spacey guitar float upon it. This has more of a folk type feel to it with the acoustic guitar playing such a prominent role. “The Answer” starts with pronounced drums and the bass guitar taking the foreground. This eventually turns into a fantastic pop song with acoustic guitar and shimmering high hat. The melody in this song is fabulous and the BGV’s with the leads are perfect. What makes this band really, really strong is how all the elements in the band really blend together to make a perfectly tight song.

“Nothing Left to Burn” begins with vocals and moves into the instrumentation. Again, this is a Billions style pop song, mixed with keys and great melody lines on the guitars. “Just a Dream” begins with jangly guitars and some acoustic strumming mixed in with accents of bass. Again, this song has a singer-songwriter feel amidst the indie-pop of the instrumentation. There are accents of shimmering guitars and straightforward percussion work. “Every Time We Try” starts of with slow paced percussion, picking, and breathy vocals. This track is a soft, subtle ballad, but not sappy and sick like that word “ballad” conveys, but in the sense that it is a love song and that it is soft and slow. “Bombs Away” has an almost alt-country feel to it. It certainly has a story-telling feel to it. This song certainly reminds me of great 70’s pop in the great sense. The disc ends with a track called “Contagious.” It begins with swirling, spacey guitars. There are tambourines throughout the track and beautiful guitar work. There are layers of guitars doing different things that really give the songs depth.

My only criticism of the Layaways is that I wish they would stick with one lead singer. Trading singers between tracks really makes the disc feel like it looses its coherence since the singers sound so different and the songs they sing really are different stylistically. Although, all the tracks are solid and extremely well done. Song structure, melody, and instrumentation bring something fresh to the 80’s pop that may be said to stem from Jesus and the Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu or the Velvet Underground. The Layaways do know how to lay down the indie-pop. I will be playing this disc in my player for some time. - Somewhere Cold

""These are songs that you want to take home with you, curl up with, hold them close -- and pray that they are still with you when you wake up.""

A nice Jesus & Mary Chain-happy Beach Boy vibe comes slipping out here, a little less dark, and a little sparser. The vocals are smooth, yet yearning, and the mix of acoustic guitar with a nicely distorted electric gives the songs a depth that shines through the lightness of the melodies. There's also a beautiful flow of slight shoegazed moodiness that rolls through. I'm thinking The Church, Ocean Blue, Kitchens of Distinction, and then a dash of Elliot Smith...all mixed and buried under a generous helping of darklands and Stoned and Dethroned by the JAMC. These are songs that you want to take home with you, curl up with, hold them close -- and pray that they are still with you when you wake up. - The Big Takeover

""The whole LP is a revelation from the start.""

The Layaways make fine indie pop. Hushed vocals interweave with understated buzzing guitars. The whole LP is a revelation from the start. It reminds of the Radio Dept in that the band seem to have similar musical influences. This isn't retro music though. There is enough new here to make this a very 2005 LP. - Lostmusic

"Their bittersweet, melodramatic indie pop hooks tap..."

One of the most brilliant things about music is the ability express a mood or articulate a feeling that you just can't put into words yourself. Chicago indie rockers, The Layaways, do just that for me. I think La Blogotheque expressed it best when they said, 'J'aime bien les chansons de The Layaways.' Moi aussi. Their bittersweet, melodramatic indie pop hooks tap into a kind of universal woeful lament that anyone can relate to at some point in time in their lives." - The Obsessive Compulsive Music Disorder

"...about as melodic and hooky as indie pop can get."

"...their latest disc, The Space Between, is about as melodic and hooky as indie pop can get.

If you want some touchstones for their sound, Spoon and Earlimart come to mind, with the former an apparent influence on opening track 'Keep it to Yourself,' at least in its spare, tough open. But then comes the chorus, and it's bright and melodic as any power pop can aspire to be (it also helps that Harrell and Mike Porter are warmer vocalists than Britt Daniel). 'All Around the World' shares its title with an Oasis classic and shares the band's affinity for 60s pop as its jaunty beat and swirling chorus would make The Spongetones proud. The moody 'January' recalls Joe Pernice as well as Colin Blunstone, and 'Come Back Home' is where the Earlimart comparison comes into play. Another standout is the gentle 'Too Little Too Late,' a wonderful rainy day song. So don't make my mistake and put this one on layaway -- get it on your music player of choice now." - Absolute Powerpop

"Their laid-back, '60s era sounds are absolutely delightening."

"The Chicago trio, The Layaways, a perennial favorite 'round these parts, return after dropping their festive Christmas EP more than two years ago. Their laid-back, '60s era sounds are absolutely delightening. Yes, they're so good that they induce spontaneous neology. On 'Keep it to Yourself' they flavor their guitars with just a pinch of fuzz, a dash of reverb, and a sprinkle of backwardness. They turn up the jangle on 'All Around the World' and their tag-team vocalists provide a subtle depth to this new full-length, available, by the way, in its entirety on their site in full share mode. Good peeps them Layaways boys. I hope they don't mind me adding my favorite track, 'Come Back Home.' It evokes a hot, languid California Summer circa 1967. Dig it."
- 3hive


More Than Happy -- 2003
We've Been Lost -- 2004
The Christmas EP -- 2006
The Space Between -- 2008



Hushed, lush, dreamy, melodic, bittersweet, and blissful are all words that bloggers and radio staff around the world have used to describe Chicago indie poppers the Layaways.

Following up on 2004's critically acclaimed "We've Been Lost" (and a much blogged about online-only Christmas EP in 2006) the Chicago three-piece returned with "The Space Between," its third full-length release of introspective indie pop, in late 2008.

While the band hasn't completely shed the "shoegaze" influence that was often noted in reviews of its first two albums, the 10 tracks on "The Space Between" revealed a wide range of influences and styles, from sunny 60's pop (All Around The World) to straight-up, driving indie rock (Keep It To Yourself). The Layaways also continue to mix things up at the microphone, with bassist Mike Porter and guitarist David Harrell trading off on lead vocals. Yet there's an underlying consistency to the disc -- all 10 songs feature the melodic hooks, wistful lyrics, and moody pop arrangements the Layaways have become known for. Ten tracks. Thirty-three minutes. Dozens of hooks. The Layaways occupy the space between happy and sad, bitter and sweet, and twilight and dawn.

Like its predecessors, the band's latest album received airplay from coast to coast, making the "top 30" charts for 20 CMJ-reporting college radio stations from Alaska to New York.

And, once again, the music blogger community responded with heavy praise for the band's brand of introspective indie pop:

"Their laid-back, '60s era sounds are absolutely delightening. Yes, they're so good that they induce spontaneous neology." -- 3hive

"...their latest disc, The Space Between, is about as melodic and hooky as indie pop can get." -- Absolute Powerpop

"...melodic, garage-influenced shoegaze." -- RCRD LBL

"It can't be easy to make something this basically simple sound so fulfilling; it if were, everyone would do it." -- Fingertips

The Layaways (Harrell, Porter, and drummer Nathan Burleson) will pack up the van this fall and hit the road for the band's first shows outside the Midwest, with stops planned for Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts.