Guest Post: Jake Nelko on Pittsburgh indie rockers 1,2,3

Every great band deserves a great hiatus.
This may not have been the defined mindset, but 1,2,3 have returned after a couple years off the radar with their 2014 release, Big Weather. Fans like me have been waiting with anticipation for their follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2011 debut, New Heaven, and will be satisfied by the labor of love (and sometimes lack thereof) that has resulted.

Driven by Nicolas Snyder’s recognizable throat, 1,2,3 hit several marks of style over the course of the album. Tracks like “Big Weather I” harken back to the big drums of New Heaven’s “Work”, while the quick transition into the second track, 80s punk style “Leave Me in the Sky with the Lawn Chair”, tells you this is a new era for this band. The musical dynamics and depth found on this album are not common in today’s rock music. Not all bands want to be regarded as a “musician’s band” for fear of palatability, but 1,2,3 certainly showcase their instrumental and production chops on their second release.

Snyder wrote an update to listeners on Crash Avenue explaining that he, like many before him, had grown weary of the recording and production process of this dual-disc release and, essentially, shut the band down in December 2012. Halfway through writing a double album with subject matter of natural disasters and apocalyptic foretelling, Snyder and the band stepped back only to reconvene once the songwriting and development of these songs became inevitable.

Dropped by their label, 1,2,3 are self-releasing an album about the title; Big Weather. Influenced by disastrous and rare tornadoes in Pennsylvania and tsunamis in Japan, among other significant meteorological conditions, the album tells stories of lonesome folks and the rarely predictable experiences that are beyond their control.

Throughout the album, we hear a progression through big drums, sweet bass, acoustic strumming ballads, and even short story narration. One listen to an up-down-and-sideways track like “Porch Swing Song” can describe the structure in a nutshell; shifting through what seems like 4 different songs in one 3:40 long track. Despite this ADD type of fluctuation, the songs stand out for themselves. The catchy quirk of tracks like “When the Levee Broke at the County Fair” get your foot tapping with complimentary heavy- and non-reverbed guitars.

Upon first listen, I was not sure what to think of this album. I’ve been a fan of Snyder and drummer Josh Sickles since The Takeover UK, so drifting further away from the single-heavy styles of their last two productions made me leery. After a few listens on some quality headphones with no distractions, though, these tracks started showing their depth and sticking. There are not many bands using dynamics as effectively as 1,2,3 have on this release; producing a variety of tones and sounds with a simple collection of guitars, bass, and drums that can only be fully appreciated given your undivided attention.

In addition to the aforementioned tracks, “The Shapes of Wrath” and “Pontoon Song” stand out as head-bobbing tracks perfect for a glass of whiskey on the front porch with a thunderstorm in the distance.
In the end, that seems like the intention here. 1,2,3 have constructed an album that takes you through so many ups-and-downs that you ultimately just want to play some dominoes and watch the end approach from the comfort of your grandfather’s rocking chair.

*Big Weather will be debuted at the release show at Brillobox in Pittsburgh on May 30.

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