It’s really hard to narrow down a list of Top Albums of 2012, especially when you have four contributors with different opinions. We gave the reins to Nathan.Lankford and Nicole Baumann on this one, since they write the majority of the album reviews, but we all have a little representation within this. Now, we do realize that our site has specialized tastes, so please realize that these are our OPINIONS. You’re welcome to disagree, and, in fact, we encourage that process. Also, we’re doing a Top 100 because so many records came out this year, it wouldn’t be fair to narrow it down. Not to mention it might lead you to discover some hits you hadn’t heard about yet. Oh, and we don’t really like Frank Ocean or hip-hop…just a personal choice…here’s the first segment.
It’s a good thing ballsy rock n’ roll is back in fashion, otherwise the hits that Unnatural Helpers have been churning out up in Seattle might not sound as sweet. But, that’s not the case, so the short hits from the foursome hit hard and fast, then they’re gone, leaving you with the desire to hit repeat over and over again on their latest LP, Land Grab (Hardly Art).
“Medication” immediately introduces you to the bouncing garage pop side of the group, using a rolling drum beat and catchy guitar line that forces your toes to tap themselves to death. Vocals are delivered in a sort of spoken word manner, though I enjoy the bratty edge of Dean Whitmore, even when the poppy backing vocals join in. They’ll stay in the same place for a moment with “Stiff Wind,” although you’ll probably find the guitars a bit more dangerous than on the opener. Land Grab is definitely a record you can turn up loud while the wind blows your hair straight back.
While the pop element exists in spots for Unnatural Helpers, I’m particular to the more punk leaning sounds that they’ve been able to balance in between the bubbly elements. You’re first real taste of this sort comes via “I Trust It Hurts;” I imagine this song being best sung by Whitmore stalking an audience with sweat dripping down his face–it’s over just as you get yourself moving, which might be a slight drawback. “Hate Your Teachers” is another such song, beginning with a heavy bass sound, which continues with a barrage of noisy guitars and frenetic pacing. For me, the punk rock ethos pervades the entire album, but it’s good to have the above mixed tracks in here to provide some differentiation in the group’s sound.
All that said, Land Grab has a few incredible hits that weren’t represented in the singles, my favorite being “Waiting Girl.” It closely represents the poppier side of the band, with forceful riffs blasting through the speakers from the moment the song opens. Here, the vocals have a bit of a cool swing, something you’d find in old UK post-punk records; it’s helped by the addition of vocals that chime in in unison during the chorus. It might not be the hardest hitting song the band’s got, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t everyone’s favorite track by the end of your listen.
There’s two great things that Unnatural Helpers have going for them, aside from being on a great label: short songs and differentiation. The short songs are great because with a sound like this, you don’t want to be overbearing or grow too complacent, which is why the differentiation factor is so important. Yes, you can see a similar strain of thought in the music, but not many of the songs sound exactly the same. That’s really refreshing considering the genre has the uncanny ability to grow stale after too many repeated listens. Fortunately for you, Land Grab benefits for the group’s hard work and stylistic choices, leaving you with one of those records you want to turn up loud and play for all your friends.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/UnnaturalHelpers_HateYourTeachers.mp3]
Download:Unnatural Helpers – Hate Your Teachers [MP3]
Land Grab is available now from Hardly Art.
A couple months ago I shared a new rockin’ tune from recent Hardly Art Acquisition Unnatural Helpers called “Hate Your Teachers”. Well today I have another new song for you going by the name “Toil” and it rocks just as hard as that last tune. Don’t forget that the band have a new album coming out on September 25th entitled Land Grab. It’s sure to be a hot one.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/UnnaturalHelpers_Toil.mp3]
Download: Unnatural Helpers – Toil [MP3]
This new rocker from Unnatural Helpers goes against my better judgement to post since it’s called “Hate Your Teachers”, but it still kind of rules. The track appears on a new album by the indie rockers called Land Grab due out September 25th via Hardly Art. While the song may be a jam, please don’t hate your teachers kids. We have feelings too.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/UnnaturalHelpers_HateYourTeachers.mp3]
Download: Unnatural Helpers – Hate Your Teachers [MP3]