Helen – “Motorcycle”

Helen is a great name for a band. Helen of Troy — the woman with a face who launched a thousand ships — literally had wars fought over her. Helen Hunt gave us the eternal rom-com lovable cheesiness of Mad About You. Helen Keller changed the way we think about sight, blindness and humanity. Mount Saint Helen is a volcano in Oregon that erupted in 1980 and covered the greater Portland area in ash.

So yes, this new band Helen has a legacy to uphold, one I’m guessing is most directly impacted by that last Helen since they’re out of Portland, Oregon. The lead singer is Liz Harris of Grouper; only the quasi-anonymous back-up singer is named Helen, which is fitting because the group originally intended to play thrash, a genre that often relegates vocals to an afterthought. Helen originally surfaced with a few fuzzy demos back in 2013, but we hadn’t really heard from them since, and this new material sounds decidedly sharper. Eternal Tapestry’s Jed Bindeman plays drums and tambourine, while Scott Simmons handles bass and guitar. Instead of a pure thrash sound, though, Harris and Helen’s voices entwine like a gauzy helix, eliciting the inescapable specter of dream pop into the song. “Motorcycle” feels like a fairy in a mosh pit, a kind of effortless balance between delicacy and violence that many bands never achieve, let alone on their first try. Such is the power of Helen. Listen below and check out the full tracklist for their debut album The Original Faces.

The Original Faces tracklist:
01 “Ryder”
02 “Motorcycle”
03 “Covered In Shade”
04 “Felt This Way”
05 “Pass Me By”
06 “Right Outside
07 “Allison”
08 “Dying All The Time”
09 “Grace”
10 “City Breathing”
11 “Violet”
12 “The Original Faces”

The Original Faces is out 9/4 via Kranky.