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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

"Jet Black New Year" by Thursday

In what is becoming a yearly tradition, there are two songs I listen to before the ball drops and after the ball drops. Since today is New Year's Eve, the traditional song for the day is "Jet Black New Year" by Thursday. The other song I listen to on New Year's Day is none other than New Year's Day by U2. This song by Thursday cannot be found on any of their studio albums. Instead it is the only studio song on the live album "Five Stories Falling." This song is just a kick-ass way to celebrate the end of a year. "Jet Black" kicks into full gear from the beginning with heavy use of power chords and a fast paced drum beat. Once the verse comes in, it continues at a torrid pace and doesn't slow down until the breakdown. The breakdown is my favorite part of any Thursday song -  Geoff counts down the last ten seconds of the new year. Once he hits one the song kicks back into high gear until it finishes. Not only has this song been a tradition of mine to listen to at New Year, but it has been on my pre-sports warm up and running mixes for the last eleven years. 

We hear at AtoZappa want to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year and look forward to a rocking 2014 in which we hope to see this great band back on the stage.

Monday, December 30, 2013

"The Bleeding Heart Show" by The New Pornographers

Aah, one of my favorite, most life-affirming songs ever written.  It begins slowly and quietly and builds until it hits a beautifully uplifting bridge filled with "ooohs", "aaaahs", and "heyyy laas".  I also found this gem of a homemade music video on Youtube.  Enjoy

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Another year is coming to a close and with that, I have made my annual top 10 list.  I was partial to many of this year's prog-rock/metal releases and also got into an entire genre I previously didn't know existed (female-fronted psychedelic doom metal).  2013 was also a year of various comebacks.  David Bowie, Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Queens of the Stone Age.  Some were good and others were fantastic.

Here's my top 10, which will no doubt change 6 months from now when I discover more albums that came out this year:

10) The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

Hailing from Wales, and led by a female singer/guitarist, this band rocks hard and they rock loud.  Key tracks: "Little Blimp", "Maw Maw Song" and "Silent Treatment"

9) Bad Religion - True North

After releasing a few average to below-average albums, Bad Religion return with their fastest, most balls to the wall punk album since Against the Grain.  Key Tracks: "Hello Cruel World", "Nothing to Dismay" and "Robin Hood in Reverse"

8) Sigur Ros - Kveikur

After taking a several year hiatus, Sigur Ros returned with their 2nd album in as many years.  Whereas last year saw an incredibly sleepy effort titled Valtari, they redeemed themselves this year with their most aggressive album to date.  Key tracks: "Isjaki", "Stormur" and "Brennisteinn"

7) Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

The greatest American band of all time come back after a 4-year break with a very strong album with top-notch songwriting.  Eddie's voice has aged like a fine wine and sounds phenomenal on this album.  If you haven't see them live, do it now.  Key tracks: "Infallible", "Pendulum" and "Sirens"

6) Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark

The album that introduced me to the female-fronted psych/doom metal I previously mentioned.  Think Black Sabbath but with wonderful female vocals and excellent usage of the flute.  Key tracks: "The Magician", "Witchwood", and "Ballad of the Weird Sisters"

5) Jex Thoth - Blood Moon Rise

This band also fits in with the female metal, but this leans much more heavily on the psychedelic side rather than doom metal.  This is a slow, beautiful album with superb vocals and tasty, almost Pink Floydish guitar work.  Key tracks: "Psyar", "Keep You Weeds" and "To Bury"

4) Dream Theater - Dream Theater

After several mediocre to downright bad albums released in the mid to late 2000s, I had practically given up with this band.  But they made a controversial personnel change when they replaced drummer Mike Portnoy with Mike Mangini and released the excellent A Dramatic Turn of Events in 2011.  Picking up where that album left off, they turned in another great album that's more reminiscent of their work in the 90's.  Key tracks: "Behind the Veil", "Illumination Theory" (22 minute epic) and "The Looking Glass"

3) Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Quiet since 2007's Era Vulgaris, Josh Homme and his never-ending changing personnel of QOTSA finally banded together to release their (very) long awaited 6th album.  It was well worth the wait.  This is a different sort of sound for the band as they explore some slower, more experimental sounds, but is still very much QOTSA.  Key tracks: "I Appear Missing", "If I Had a Tail" and "Kalopsia"

2) Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

2-discs, 42 tracks, 8 vocalists, and 12 different musicians make this one of the absolute best albums of the year.  This "band", which is essentially 1 guy, Arjen Lucassen, who rounds up the best talent in the world of prog rock for each album, has been putting out excellent prog albums for years now.  This one is no different.  The instrumentation is incredible, the vocalists are at the top of their game, and the melodies will be stuck in your head for days.  Key tracks: "Diagnosis", "Love and Envy", "Magnetism", "The Parting" and "Collision"

And without a doubt:
1) Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

Two years ago when Steven Wilson released his album Grace for Drowning, I had stated it was the best album I had heard in at least 2 years.  Well, another new album from Mr. Wilson and I consider this to be the best album I've heard since Grace for Drowning.  Yes, he is just that good.  Just listen to it.  Key tracks: the whole damn thing, there are only 6 tracks, just listen to it (fine, if I had to choose a favorite, it would be "The Pin Drops", which is conveniently posted above)

Honorable Mentions:
AFI - Burials - great comeback album after the extremely disappointing Crash Love
Ezra Furman - Day of the Dog - this guy can do no wrong, and this is another fantastic album
Purson - The Circle and the Blue Door - more excellent psychedelic chick rock

That wraps up another great year of music for me.  Be on the lookout for other Top 10 lists from the rest of the contributors here at AtoZappa and please share your favorite albums of the year below.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"For Martha" by The Smashing Pumpkins

I am posting on behalf of Josh Horowitz today.  Here's his song:

Following up the highly successful and masterful Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Pumpkins released the lesser known single disc album, Adore. This album marked a change for Pumpkins as long time drummer, Jimmy Chamberlain, was no longer with the band and was replaced by a drum machine. The music also took a turn away from the hard rocking anthems of Melon Collie into a softer tone. This album is littered with gems, but my favorite song from it is "For Martha". This song, written by Billy Corgan, is about the passing of his mother Martha. The song itself is simply beautiful. It portrays a heartfelt love that Billy felt for his mother and how she will surely be missed. The song starts with a slow, melodic piano that sets a haunting mood for the song.  This song compliments Billy's singing style very well as it is very dark and beautiful. This song is a must listen for any Pumpkins fan and it would be hard for me to exclude this from any Smashing Pumpkins greatest hits album.

Monday, December 23, 2013


We here at AtoZappa want to wish a Happy Birthday to one of our favorite singers of all time. Happy 49th Birthday Eddie. We hope you won't be sleeping by yourself tonight.

"Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don't" by Brand New

Brand New are not an easy band to listen to.  Their lyrics are intense and the sheer emotion you hear in Jesse Lacey's voice is a bit much to handle at times.  They've evolved quite a bit since their early days and have gotten darker with each album.  I happen to love everything they've done (with the exception of their 1st album) but my favorite album will likely always be Deja Entendu and my favorite song will likely always be "Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don't".  I love the way the song slowly builds until it reaches an intense climax.  I love the biting, arrogant lyrics.  I love the overall tone and I love Jesse's brilliant vocal delivery.  This is not a happy song, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes me happy every time I hear it.

Concert Review - Brand New at Starland Ballroom 12/21/13

Getting tickets to a Brand New concert is tougher than winning the Mega Millions, so when my friend told me he was able to scoop up 2 tickets for their show at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ and was offering one to me, I was ecstatic.  I hadn't seen them since their The Devil and God... tour and was excited at the prospect of seeing them perform songs from their latest album, Daisy.  I then found out that they would be playing 2 full albums at each of their 2 east coast shows (as well as 2 full albums at each of their 2 west coast shows).  I'm a huge fan of their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th albums, but am the rare Brand New fan that is not familiar with their 1st album.

We arrived at the venue roughly 30 minutes before the doors opened and saw a line wrapping around the entire parking lot with anxious and excited fans.  After a long wait, we got in and I was pleasantly surprised by the opening band, The Front Bottoms.  Not only were they an enjoyable blend of acoustic folk, punk, and pop, but the crowd went nuts for them and seemed to know every lyric.  They were given a solid 10-song set and paved the way for the headliner.

After what seemed like an eternity, Brand New finally took the stage and the crowd went wild.  When the opening notes of "The Shower Scene" hit and everyone realized they'd be playing their 1st album, Your Favorite Weapon, the cheers of joy among the crowd were intense.  That is, everyone except for me was excited.  I only know a few songs from the album and don't care much for the overall juvenile sound that comprises the songs.  The highlights for me were "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" and "Seventy Times 7", but overall the band sounded almost uncomfortable playing the album.  They have grown so much since those days and are no longer the same band they were.

After finishing Your Favorite Weapon, they played 3 b-sides before beginning Deja Entendu, which is undoubtedly my favorite album of theirs.  By this point, the band was fully warmed up and the crowd was whipped into a frenzy.  The brief intro, "Tautou", flowed perfectly into their hit, "Sic Transit Gloria...".  My personal favorite Brand New song, "Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don't", was a crowd favorite and single-handedly made up for the fact that I wasn't into the first half of their show.  The band had a comic misstep when they realized they played "Jaws Theme Swimming" out of order and skipped "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot".  Frontman, Jesse Lacey, added additional comic relief when he pointed out that "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" is a ripoff of "Yellow" by Coldplay, and he ended the song with the opening lines from "Yellow".  They continued playing through the album until reaching the somber closing track, "Play Crack the Sky".

Overall, I found the show to be a bit of an uneven affair, as I was fairly bored during the first half until things kicked into gear for the second half.  However, I was clearly in the minority, as the crowd was having a blast, singing every lyric along with Jesse the entire way through.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"Morning Dew" by The Grateful Dead

From time to time we will be having guest bloggers voice their songs of the day. Today's guest blogger is our good friend Jason Adler. Enjoy.

I started to listen to jam band music almost 10 years ago.  Chris Murino, writer for this very blog, introduced me to a then young, up and coming band known as Umphrey’s McGee.  My music taste was changed forever because from there I started getting into bands such as Phish, The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, STS9, Soulive, Lettuce, The Meters, and more.  The one jam band that evaded me, somewhat inexplicably, was the Grateful Dead.  A combination of intimidation and embarrassment led me to never really try to get into Jerry Garcia and his band of merry men.  That is until the Summer of 2013 when I was camping in upstate New York to see Phish.  For three hot, July days, my buddy Tyler played nothing but live Grateful Dead tracks and from then I realized what I've been missing for all these years.

My first song of the day is Morning Dew by The Grateful Dead.  Throughout this Summer, I explored live Dead songs, but none have had the impact on me quite like this song.  It’s not one of the Dead’s catchiest or fun songs, but it might be their most beautiful.  One might call it the perfect jam band song.  From the first notes Jerry plays on his guitar, “Wolf”, you can tell you are in for a journey.  Morning Dew is a 12 minute epic that rises, falls, rises again, and ends with 3 minutes of the most breathtaking guitar solos I have ever heard.  Towards the end of the song, Jerry proclaims, “I guess it doesn't really matter anyway.”  However, Jerry was wrong.  It does matter, this song matters, and the Grateful Dead matter more than most bands in music history.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Triple Treat Thursday - "Deform to Form a Star" by Steven Wilson

This is the first Thursday of our blog. We have decided to dedicate every Thursday as a Triple Treat  Thursday (TTT), in which all three of us will be posting our reviews for the song of the day.

I listened to the song for the first time in a while last night and it's just gorgeous. The guitar solo is what really stands out to me. Fits perfectly in the song and is very well played. Steven Wilson is also a perfectionist when it comes to composing song structures and this one is no different.
- Chris

I may be new to the Steven Wilson bandwagon, but let me tell you that its a train worth hitching a ride on. At 7:51 seconds Deform to Form a Star may seem like a daunting task to listen to, but time seems to come to a standstill when this is song is played. From the ominous first chords to the harmonic ending, Deform to Form a Star should be listened to by everyone who loves music.
- Josh

I can write a 40-page paper on the brilliance of Steven Wilson, but luckily for all of you, only 1 of his songs is being reviewed today.  "Deform to Form a Star" is one of the most gorgeous compositions I've ever heard.  The vocal melodies in the verses and chorus are sheer perfection, the note selection & guitar tone in the 1st guitar solo is stunning, and just when the song comes to a halt and you think it's over, it jumps back in with an achingly beautiful vocal bit that will make you happy to be alive and able to listen to such perfection.
- Steve

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel

It just had to be this one.  One of my favorite songs of all time.  "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" is a tour de force of songwriting that has made me cry, made me laugh, made me contemplate the cosmos.  It's made me write.  It's made me wonder, "Why does he bring the horn section in so soon and why does it fit so perfectly?  And is this the best bridge ever written?"  In my opinion, it's a rare perfect song.  The lyrics put it over the top, combing to be both hopeful and melancholic in a beautifully written way.  It evokes an emotional response nearly every time I hear it and for that reason, it had to be this one.  This just had to be my first song of the day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen

Hailing from Central Jersey, it is imperative to know of the existence of Bruce Springsteen (and Bon Jovi) and for years I had only known of his existence, not his songs. Fortunately, one Friday night I took a bus trip out to Pittsburgh and I had recently uploaded a few Bruce Springsteen albums onto my Ipod. 16 hours later, I had listened to every album I had multiple times. Since that trip, Bruce has been in my constant rotation of artists and appears to have solidified the top spot as my most played artist of 2013. Thunder Road is not my favorite Bruce song, but it has been one of the most played on my Ipod. Not because Born to Run is my favorite album or because it’s been listened to the most (that would be Atlantic City and Nebraska respectively) but because it breaks the mold of song writing and takes the listener on a fantastic journey. Thunder Road starts off quite slowly with a gentle harmonica entrance followed by a slow piano as the first verse comes in. There is no chorus and the song keeps moving along gaining speed as it progresses. The song then ends with the second most famous sax solo in the entire Bruce collection. Please enjoy the song and immerse yourself in one of the best songs of all time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

"John The Baptist" by The Afghan Whigs

Several years ago, while browsing my local record store in Hoboken, a song came on that caused me to immediately stop what I was doing so I could go to the checkout counter and ask the associate what we were listening to.  He told me it was the final album by the Afghan Whigs, a band I had never heard of before.  I promptly went to the "A" section of the CD rack, found the album 1965 (a used copy for $2.99), purchased it, and instantly fell in love with a '90s band that I previously didn't know existed.  The song that so quickly won me over in the store that day was "John The Baptist".  This song begins rather ominously with a dark guitar line, followed by an almost whispered verse, before exploding into an exciting, saxophone-driven chorus with wonderful female backup vocals.  The song culminates with a sublime saxophone solo before finally winding down to a slow finish.  Though not my all-time favorite Whigs song, it's in my top 5, and it's the song that introduced me to this criminally underrated band.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Hello World,

We, Steve, Chris, Josh, have been passionate about music for as long as we can remember. Our music libraries are vast and range from everything from the underground to the above ground to everything in between. Our goal every day is to post a song of the day and describe our feelings on it. We will also be posting concert reviews and albums reviews throughout. We hope you sit back, relax and just enjoy the melodies.