Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This Is Your Song For....August 28th, 2013: Still Alive by Jonathan Coulton (Live in Toronto)

Sometimes, The Internet IS Your Friend!
Well, I see we’re back to Geekcore this morning.

And I have to admit, as much as I look at so much of Geekcore with askance, I rather like Jonathan  Coulton.  I first came across him on Brian Ibbot’s excellent podcast Coverville, which featured an adult contemporary-ized cover he did of ‘Baby Got Back’ as part of his Thing A Week Project.  You may remember that cover, as it became the center of a controversy when the folks at Glee decided to steal its arrangement (down to the use of a duck noise to hide a curseword) for one of their episodes and not give him any credit because, well, they're jerks who care nothing for the artists they're inspired by.  Spurred on by my love of that cover, I investigated his site and liked a lot of what I heard.  When I did my first podcast, Other People’s Toys, I used--with his permission--a different Coulton song to play me in.  I’ve continued to follow his career, and have not been disappointed a bit by what he does.

Coulton may very well be the first musician to use alternative media to get his word out.  He made it clear very early on that his work was considered Creative Commons, meaning anyone an share or remix his work as long as it wasn’t for commercial use.  He did a lot of outreach via the internet--his Thing A Week offered people who visited his site a free MP3 for an entire year, and there’s a number of them still free for the asking.  He was a frequent guest or contributor to a number of podcast.  The end result was that he was already making money off his music before he stepped out from behind his home recording equipment for his first studio album, Artificial Heart.  He’s an internet success story, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other geek musicians like Adam Warrock and John Anealio didn’t get some inspiration from his career arc.

This is a live recording of the end credits song he did for the video game Portal.  I have no idea what the game is about, not being a gamer, but it is indicative of Coulton’s sensibilities--the nerdish subject matter, the phrasing of the lyrics, the asides that effortlessly slide into the main song that are gone before you realize what happend.  And through it all, Coulton’s warm, expressive, very Brooklyn-esque voice is holding your hand and guiding you through even while he’s talking about death, dismemberment and mad science.  I find it kind of appealing that the fans are singing along at certain points, as if Coulton is a major stadium rock star --but then, to the right audience, every musician can be a stadium rock star, right?

Coulton still lives in Brooklyn and still makes music, although he doesn’t seem to make as much as he used to--since the release of Heart, he’s only released a Greatest Hits package and a scant few original songs--being busy with such concerns as the JoCo Cruise Crazy and a comic book featuring the hero of one of his most popular songs, ‘Code Monkey.  But I’m sure when the time comes, new Coulton songs will emerge.

Here’s a video.

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