The Music of Jonathan Coulton

Over the past few days I’ve discovered a great singer/songwriter, Jonathan Coulton. Apparently he’s been an Internet “It” Boy for a while, but somehow he passed right by me. My geek cred is suffering.

Yesterday, I was listening to one of the XM radio comedy stations, when they played his song “RE: Your Brains ”. By the end of the song, I was singing the chorus at the top of my lungs in the car, and wishing that my car stereo came equipped with an audio version of Tivo.

This morning, I found Coulton’s web site, and downloaded “RE: Your Brains”, which is every bit as good as I remembered. So I bought the entire album. And then I bought another album. And then I figured I’d better wait at least a few days to buy some more, or else I’d feel like a fool for not just shelling out the $70 for “everything” on his web site in one download.

Coulton is something I’ve not encountered before: a humorous songwriter who actually has a great voice, and sings more than just humorous songs. For example, on the same album “Thing A Week Two” is the song “Flickr”. This is a beautiful tune that is a sort of stream of consciousness describing photos you’d see on Flickr – but perfectly rhyming and set to a tune that is as radio-friendly as any I’ve heard. On his web site, in the “wiki” section, he has a video for the song that has all the pictures in it that he sings about. This video should play on MTV… except, of course, that they don’t play music videos anymore.

Almost all of his songs have a catchy tune, a bouncy beat, and are fun to sing along with. On his album “Thing a Week Three”“, “Tom Cruise Crazy” and “Code Monkey” are two standouts that should also both become hits. “Code Monkey” will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in a cubicle environment with computers, and “Tom Cruise Crazy” is just a damn good song all around.

You really have to listen to these songs to appreciate how incredibly good they are. Every one of them is impeccably written, with rhymes and hooks that are downright giddy. Coulton’s voice is a great folk-rock singing voice, evoking a 21st century combination of John Denver and Bruce Springsteen. I don’t know why he hasn’t had at least several Top 40 hits already. Or perhaps he has, and I am even more behind the times than I think I am.

There’s even a delightful cover of a Beatles song, “I Will”, to be found on “Thing A Week Two”. By the way, I was confused at first about why he has four volumes of “Thing A Week”. Well, as it turns out, when he got started as a full-time performer, he made himself write, record, and make available a new song every week for a year. Hence, “Thing A Week”. An admirable lesson to anyone who’s trying to start their own business, especially in a creative field.

RE: Your Brains” is still my favorite. This is a song from one co-worker to another – except that the guy singing the song is a zombie, and he’s trying to get his office mate to let him eat his brains (as zombies are wont to do):

Heya Tom, it’s Bob from the office down the hall
Good to see you buddy, how’ve you been?
Thing have been OK for me except that I’m a zombie now
I really wish you’d let us in

I think I speak for all of us when I say I understand
Why you folks might hesitate to submit to our demand
But here’s an FYI:
You’re all gonna die screaming

And then that fantastic refrain, in which an entire chorus of singing zombies joins along:

All we want to do is eat your brains
We’re not unreasonable, I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
All we want to do is eat your brains
We’re at an impasse here, maybe we should compromise:
If you open up the doors
We’ll all come inside and eat your brains

I defy anyone not to sing along once you’ve heard this song. In less than 24 hours, this has become one of my favorite Car Songs. Play it loud, pound on the dashboard (traffic permitting), and shout along at the top of your lungs. It will put you in a great mood and really set the rest of your day in perspective, trust me.

So don’t wait for the undead to take control – head on over to Coulton’s web site (we Jonathans have to stick together, right?) and buy a few songs. Buy an entire album or two, they’re worth it. And all of his music is available as non-DRM’d MP3 tracks in high quality, which I heartily support and greatly admire. I already know I’ll be buying the rest of his music over the next few days, I just can’t resist. You can get his stuff on iTunes and Amazon as well, but why not buy them directly from the man who makes them?

Now come on, everybody! Gather ’round and sing along! All we want to do is eat your brains…

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