Sunday, January 4, 2009

jonathan coulton: required listening

It has been mentioned that we here at Charge Shot!!! like video game music and also that we like Jonathan Coulton, a man who may or may not be the focus of another post in the near future. For those of you who aren't good with names, yes, this is the Still Alive guy.

You should know that any music listener is doing him(or her)self a disservice by stopping at Portal's end credits - the monkey-obsessed Coulton has a back catalog larger than that of many artists. His sound at times evokes Fountains of Wayne, They Might Be Giants at others, and his vocal harmonies owe more than a little to the Barenaked Ladies. His smooth melodious style also marks him as a devoted disciple of the Beatles - he wears his influences on his sleeve, but fans of any of these artists (or any like them) will find something to like here.

Because Coulton releases all of his work under the Creative Commons license, we can provide download links to many of the songs below - as for the rest, YouTube is your friend. Let's try to be classy, though - going through JoCo's Web site will give you the opportunity to pay the man for his work. Hit the jump, let's get going!

As with many artists, Coulton's covers are a good entry point to his body of work. His cover of I Will, a Paul McCartney tune from the Beatles' White Album, is sweet, true to the original but different enough to be interesting. Absolutely essential, though, is his cover of Baby Got Back - to Sir Mix-a-Lot's old standard about bejunked trunks, Coulton brings a singer-songwriterly arrangement and earnest vocals. His tongue may be in his cheek here, but you would never guess it from his delivery.

For people who liked Still Alive's clever lyricism, I might first recommend I Crush Everything, the only pop song I can think of told from the perspective of a self-aware and lonely giant squid. Also, try Code Monkey, which will resonate with any discouraged programmer or administrator of the backend of a stupid blog. Then, Re: Your Brains, about an annoying officemate-turned-zombie who wants to crack your head open - didn't you get the memo? The single men and recent college grads among you may also appreciate Ikea, devoted to one of the only places on Earth than can furnish an entire apartment for less than $200.

Coulton also pens goofy ballads to go with his goofy rock tracks. First, prepare yourself to hear a Ben Folds-y song with the word fuck in it, and then listen to First of May, a song about what happens on the first warm day of the year. Also, try Soft Rocked by Me, which gets bonus points for making a joke about the use of the passive voice. If you want something that isn't about having sex, try I'm Your Moon, sung by Charon to a distressed and recently declassified Pluto.

Those are my personal favorite Coulton tracks, but there's a lot more to love here. Some stuff further from the beaten path: SkyMall, Flickr, Skullcrusher Mountain, and Pizza Day. If you're reading this, I guarantee you have the time to give it all the listen it deserves.