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Pop Filter Hot Pick: 1,2,3 return with ambitious double album "Big Weather"

1,2,3 will be playing a record release show supporting Big Weather at Brillobox on Fri., May 30 at 9:30PM. 

As far as careers in rock and roll go in the 21st century, Nic Snyder, lead singer and songwriter of the boozy, power pop country quartet 1,2,3, has seen his fair share of things fall apart. His first band, the Libertines-eque hellraisers, The Takeover UK, got kicked around on by their label, Rykodisc in the mid aughts after being promised big things. Their debut album Running With the Wasters was eventually released in 2009 to little fanfare after Rykodisc was bought out by another label that was unsure of what to do with a group of shitkickers from Pittsburgh who made terrifyingly catchy garage punk about strung out benders and bar fights.

Eventually, Snyder recruited his childhood friend/bandmate/drummer, Josh Sickles to help flesh out a batch of songs he’d been accruing since high school, excited to leave the mess of The Takeover UK behind. As 1,2,3, Snyder and Sickles found attention from indie rock royalty label Frenchkiss—home to Passion Pit, The Hold Steady and Local Natives—based on the strength of just two singles they released on a boutique label in the UK.

Their full-length debut New Heaven, which dropped in June, 2011, possessed a richly realized distillation of Snyder’s songwriting and performing strengths, as well as pet influences, especially on tracks like the album’s lead single “Work," which features cryptically fatalist lyricism, arrays of both twangy and power chord guitar riffs, melodies that moved his durable falsetto into unexpected places, and a keen sense of pop composition. It was a busy melting pot for sure, but song by song, 1,2,3’s sound always coalesced into compellingly weird rock and roll, marked by Snyder’s restless, woozy bursts of creativity.

The road to the release of 1,2,3’s sophomore album Big Weather, out May 27, hasn’t been easy. Following the subsequent tour for New Heaven and spurred on by a wayward tornado that nearly destroyed his aunt’s house outside of the city, Snyder found himself fascinated and paranoid about the world’s increasingly erratic weather patterns and natural disasters. He devoured dystopian movies like Eraserhead, Soylent Green and Dawn of the Dead, and holed up with the band in his basement studio to put together a sprawling double album of new material deeply influenced by his growing unease.

“Meanwhile,” Snyder typed in a letter addressed to fans published on 1,2,3’s Facebook page, “I let other things get away from me.”

Frenchkiss never really responded to the early mixes of the record, and they along with 1,2,3's managment and booking agencies eventually dropped them. The band was turning down gigs to record the album, eventually exposing the fact that Snyder owed thousands in back taxes, going into debt to buy recording equipment and hoping for an advance that never came. By Dec., 2012, exhausted and increasingly at odds with his band, Snyder quit.

“I became fickle,” Snyder continued in the letter, “sick of writing about weather, and, it being 2012 and all, very sick of hearing about 'the End.'"

Snyder liberated himself from the situation by pulling himself away from the studio and drying out from many drunken nights. Over the next few months, he found himself with a clearer mind, recharged and focused on the idea of “big weather” and the scientists who said it was humanity’s fault. He slipped back in the studio by himself and, by the following summer coaxed the band he had pushed away to help him finish the album which had blossomed into a healthy 20 tracks.

I'm just not one to leave something I've invested so much energy into to die without reaching, at least, its artistic goal,” says Snyder. “We made a double LP about something, that sounds like nothing else, and did it all ourselves. How do I feel about that? Proud as a father.”

Big Weather is a massive tidal wave of an album, surprisingly consistent over the course of 20 tracks, including two spoken word short stories. Snyder and his band have crafted a record bursting at the seams with ideas and ambition but still drenched in the drunken Americana storytelling and garage rock that has been the throughline of Snyder’s songwriting.

Tracks like the beautifully fragile disaster ballad "Fear Pure Elevation," and album opener "Big Weather Pt. 1"—with its John Cougar Mellancamp guitar stops and harmonized vocals— possess the emotional heft of 20 different radio standards at once, revealing Snyder's deft compositional touch.  But it's the lead single “When the Levee Broke at the County Fair” that encapsulates the insouciant forboding and gallows humor Big Weather has in spades. A crunchy, FM pop number injected with tambourine garage boogie, the song features Snyder using his falsetto to deliriously tell the story of a disaster painted with frozen scenes of youthful indiscretion: "When the levee broke at the county fair / I was threading my fingers through your hair / feeling all the things a boy should feel / when you reach the peak of the ferris wheel."

It's gorgeous and painful in the same breath, a coming of age story that climaxes as the world ends. If the songs on Big Weather are any indication, Snyder feels like time is running out for all of us. It's a good thing he finished his opus before the big weather comes and gets us all.

To pre-order Big Weather , visit www.americanhermitage.com. (4104 Penn Avenue, Lawrenceville, Brillobox)
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