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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.

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