The Woolen Men - Live from the Banana Stand is now available. Please download your copy using the "Download" link above. We hope you dig it a lot, we do!

The Woolen Men came to us by recommendation of Alex Arrowsmith ('Stand mixer) and Mayhaw Hoons (The Shaky Hands, Death Songs, The Minders). I'm really glad we followed that recommendation, because I love this band, and I like this release tons. I can't talk about The Woolen Men's music academically -- as it relates to other genres or even to the Portland scene (though I believe I have heard from the guys that New Zealand is a big influence), but I can tell you what I like about it and those that perform it.

I love how this album starts. I love how Voulez Vous begins, with Raf Spielman's cool, detached drum line -- reminiscent of what seems to be a post-beach explosion in Portland, but with it's own character. I love the distorted guitar hook, and its interplay as a melodic voice with Lawton Browning's vocal work. And I adore Alex Geddes's bass work, the under-appreciated glue that holds so many of these tracks together. (Alex, in my opinion, is a great bassist. I always really dig his stuff.) The following tracks -- Living Proof and Land of Laughs provide a great pop counterpart to more experimental, avant tracks like Donkey Island and Trapdoor (for months my choice for drunken, post-show dancing). This balance is apparent throughout the rest of the album, with tracks like On Video Beach and the epic close, West Coast.

In the same way that the band's influences vary, so too does the band's instrumentation. As I've seen them, the band stays fairly consistent to drums, guitar and bass in their live work, but each member plays each instrument at various times. Thankfully, it works terrifically well. This isn't them trying to show off. Listening to the album, we doubt you'll be able to tell when the instrument changes occur, though lead vocals may tip you off. If you know more about the group, songwriting can be a guide. The Woolen Men are excellent further in that all three members write songs for the group. Each brings a differing, valuable perspective to the band's sound, and we've loved tracks from each member.

Regardless of the variables for each, The Woolen Men consistently produce excellent songs. Songs that are provoking and sort of strange -- but in a way that makes you feel way cooler. The variability of influences, instrumentation and composition all combine to create an intriguing, and, in my opinion, excellent live album -- truly one of my favorites that we've produced. So scroll to the top and download it!

We've had the luck to hear a few more tracks from The Woolen Men as part of non-live sessions we've been doing with the group. As I've said in other posts, recording these guys is a great way to spend an afternoon. The non-live sessions in particular have been great for producing terrific material for experiments with our new mixing setup. The strength of these non-live tracks is particularly important in this instance, as my love of the recordings helps to negate the incredible frustration of being terrible at mixing. When I listen to those recordings in that environment, all the frustration goes away. I can listen to the same song over and over again while I try to learn how to use our EQs to produce just one awesome guitar sound. I don't mind that repetition at all. My love for this band makes me want to put in that work to get better at what we do.

So thanks, Woolen Men. Thanks for an amazing live release and for such promising non-live recordings. Thanks also for being cool dudes while working with us on all that stuff. Finally, thanks for producing music that makes us want to keep doing this, and to do it better.

-L

The Woolen Men - Live from the Banana Stand was recorded before a live audience on November 27th, 2010 at the Banana Stand in Portland, Oregon. The album was mixed and mastered by Alex Arrowsmith. Brian David Smith handled design and layout for album art, which includes original photography from various 'Standers and the original show poster, also by Brian. The Banana Stand would like to thank The Woolen Men (Lawton, Raf and Alex), all who participated in this album's creation and anyone that has helped us out along the way.

Find more from The Woolen Men from The Free Music Archive, and on Facebook and MySpace.

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