Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Thing-A-Week Two" by Jonathan Coulton

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Jonathan Coulton
Title: Thing-A-Week Two
Released: 2006 (sort of)
Genre: indie comedy geek-folk



Jonathan Coulton is an indie folk rocker from New York who works very much in the spirit of (and has, in fact, toured with) They Might Be Giants. He's probably best known for contributing the song Still Alive to the monstrously successful PC game Portal, but before that he spent a year from September 2005 to 2006 building a catalog and a following by releasing a new song every week. The project, which was subtly titled Thing A Week, was an attempt to push himself creatively and prove to himself that he could produce content on a deadline. Unsurprisingly, it starts out rough and it kind of peters out towards the end, but in the middle there is all kinds of amazing music.

Thing-A-Week Two is the second installment of that project, released one song at a time in the winter of 2005 and 2006 and then collected into a single volume the following November. As such, it doesn't have the kind of coherence that you normally expect from a proper album. It opens with Flickr (embedded above), a decent song, but one that's really only funny with the accompanying video. It meanders about for a bit until the mid-point--nothing really bad, but nothing really memorable either--and then it picks up with Curl, a song about curling, and Chiron Beta Prime, a hilarious Christmas letter from a family that's been banished to an asteroid where they're "working in a mine for our robot overlords--did I say overlord? I meant protectors." Then it ends with Stroller Town, a Beach Boys riff about a baby drag racing in his stroller and what is maybe Coulton's best song, Re: Your Brains. In it, Bob is hiding from the zombie hoard in his office, and his coworker Tom, now a zombie, is trying to talk his way in while being a passive-aggressive douche.

There are some other assorted bits of interest. There's a bouncy little cover if I Will by The Beatles and a somewhat absurd song called Dance, Soterios Johnson, Dance that's really only funny if you know who Soterios Johnson is, which is unlikely unless you're a New Yorker who listens to NPR. There's a computer-spoken-word... thing... called Resolutions that amusingly evokes Radiohead's Fitter Happier but is kind of head-scratchy on its own. But, again, the misses are at least interesting even if they don't land completely, and the hits and just incredible.

Further Listening: Thing-A-Week Three has some excellent songs on it too, notably Code Monkey and Tom Cruise Crazy. But there's great music scattered throughout the whole project, and some great songs on the EPs that proceeded it. His recent output has been... weird... and not always in a good way. But if you just want a place to start, his retrospective JoCo Looks Back is a great collection.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m

100 Albums: "Fashion Nugget" by Cake

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Cake Title:   Fashion Nugget Released:  1996 Genre:  lo-fi indie alt-rock There was a summer when I was in college that I spent every spare minute playing Super Bomber Man  on the SNES and listening to Cake's Fashion Nugget  (and one other album that I will get to shortly). Cake broke in the late era of grunge with The Distance , a--ahem--driving song about a man racing to get back to his love, or something like that. The metaphor was unclear, but the song was catchy as hell. They followed it up with a cover of I Will Survive  that was much more indicative of Cake's sound: lo-fi vintage guitar, a lead trumpet, John McCrea's deadpan just-off-rhythm singing and sarcastic lyrics, and Victor Damiani's frenetic bass-playing. Fashion Nugget  was independently produced under the ethos of "if you can't make it sound clean, make it sound dirty in an interesti