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Greetings from Pittsburgh: 1,2,3 – New Heaven

Brian Johnson has been a regular visitor around here for some time and his comments have always been extremely thoughtful and well-written. We could tell Brian shares our vision and thought it would be great if we gave him a chance to make guest contributions to the site.  I’ll let him take it from here! ~Matthew

One of the things I like most about dropping by Turntable Kitchen is how – bloggers in chief – Kasey and Matthew Hickey, make you feel like you’re hanging out with your favorite couple. A Monday morning visit feels like a Friday evening of good food and candid conversation, with the pause between records being the only break in music playing. That’s how I felt the first time I visited this blog with the intention of snagging live Spoon recordings from the post titled Single Serving: Spoon – Various Live Covers (which TK revisited a year later). There is a quality of warmth to Turntable Kitchen that makes for a truly unique online experience, which is why I’ve been back practically every day since I first stumbled upon it.

Roughly two years, thousands of downloads (I think I’m exaggerating), and hundreds of comments later (I hope I’m exaggerating), I was recently honored by Turntable Kitchen with the most unexpected invitation to be a contributing music blogger. So, it is with a sense of shock and unworthiness that I’d like to introduce myself; my name is Brian Johnson, I love me some music, and I live in Pittsburgh,PA.

Matthew’s posts about San Francisco bands are great, because they’re like little snapshots of a music scene that, as an east-coaster, I have no direct exposure to. I hope to offer similar snapshots of the thriving music scene in Pittsburgh, a community filled with bands that I wish were around when I was in my twenties. One of those bands is 1,2,3, whose debut album New Heaven – released in June on French Kiss – has been receiving a lot of positive press. Live performances in the UK have further elevated their profile. All of this attention is well deserved as New Heaven is a solid debut album by a band with a lot of promise.

With New Heaven, 1,2,3 members Nic Snyder and Josh Sickels, exercise a song-over-sound approach with a collection of songs that reveal a comfort with a variety of styles. Bouncing between wall rattling physicality and cavernous ambience, 1,2,3 explore a sonic space occupied by bands like The Walkmen, White Rabbits, or Wild-Beasts. Like those bands, whom they may or may not consider to be peers,1,2,3 deftly avoid genre labels by leaving no influence unturned.

On album opener “Work,” a swaggering tambourine intro combines with a chugging guitar rhythm to form what sounds like a lurching train picking up speed. With lyrics like “The age of Sinatra still exists in some bars,” “Work” conjures images of Pittsburghand gives the band an almost populist aura. Songs like the hushed “Heat Lightnin,’” and floor-stomper “Confetti,” highlight the albums strong existential undertones with their meditations on evolution, mortality, and alienation. Singer Nic Snyder, whose stunning vocal range is the true standout feature on New Heaven, channels Ezra Koenig on “Riding Coach,” a song about the realities facing young bands that are trying to “make it big.” With percolating bass rumbles and funky guitar jabs, the blazed groove of Riding Coach gives one of the stronger indications of just how great 1,2,3 could soon be.

I recently received my Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box in the mail – totally worth every penny – and as I sifted through its contents I found myself trying to read the pamphlet and recipes, while listening to the record and playing with the bag of flour all at once. I was excited for the latest manifestation of Matthew and Kasey’s hard work and for the future of Turntable Kitchen. It’s the same, “What will they do next?” factor that makes bands like 1,2,3 so exciting and blogs like Turntable Kitchen worth visiting everyday.

You can buy New Heaven at Insound, and 1.2.3 have some of their earlier songs streaming at their website, both – in my humble opinion – are worth checking out.

1,2,3 – Work
1,2,3 – Heat Lightnin’
1,2,3 – Riding Coach

Thank you Matthew and Kasey for this opportunity, and thank you Elizabeth for saving me from bad punctuation!

Posted by Brian

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