online listen
narrow miss and a tough call
quirky nerd rock as in TMBG
Ben Folds voice and lyrics almost as smart
18 tracks was too much, although the songs got better at the end

from the album - The Stache

released Nov 8th, 2011

from all music


When They Might Be Giants were first starting out they experimented with an answering machine service named Dial-A
-Song, by means of which listeners could call them in Brooklyn and listen to a random taped song. The service was
popular enough that it broke down frequently, but not before it helped them get signed to an indie label, Bar/None.
Jonathan Coulton, standing on the shoulders of the Giants both musically and spiritually, found fame by the 21st
century equivalent of Dial-A-Song through "Thing A Week," a podcast that delivered a new song he had recorded every
week for a year. His talent as a pop architect, appealingly offbeat subjects, and propensity for combining them in
bittersweet but humorous songs -- imagine Pluto's moon singing melancholy consolation to help it get over not being
officially classified a planet any more -- earned him a dedicated and cultish following.

At Yale Coulton met and befriended writer and comedian John Hodgman, who would become a collaborator of his on
several projects. At graduation, the two moved to Manhattan where Coulton found work as a software engineer, self-
releasing CDs of quirky folk-rock like Smoking Monkey (2003) and the EP Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow (2004) on
the side. At the same time, Hodgman was embarking on a series of lectures called the Little Gray Books, for which
he enlisted Coulton as musical director, performing songs that related to the subject of each talk.

The September 2005 issue of Popular Science magazine was accompanied by Coulton's downloadable EP covering
scientific subjects called Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms. He was listed in the magazine's masthead as
"Contributing Troubadour." That month he simultaneously quit his day job at the software company and announced his
intent to make a living solely from the profits of his musical endeavors, despite not being signed to a label. He
achieved this with the debut of his "Thing A Week" project, giving himself the motivational deadline of one week to
record each song; he spent the next year recording 52 tracks and posting them one by one on
He let people listen to the songs for free as well as selling MP3s and CDs, discovering that the fans would still pay
for them as he slowly built a devoted audience. He was helped when several of his songs -- especially a slow, acoustic
cover of "Baby Got Back" and songs with especially geeky subjects like the mad scientist love song "Skullcrusher Mountain"
and the office zombie memo "Re: Your Brains" -- gained Internet popularity.

These songs were released under the terms of a Creative Commons License that not only allowed listeners to legally
copy them and pass them on to their friends, but to use them in projects of their own. Videos of his songs made
with footage from computer games and cartoons became popular on YouTube, spreading his popularity by word-of-blog
until he became something of a geek-rock phenomenon by the time he concluded the series with triumphant covers of
Queen's We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You. After polling the fans the "Thing A Week" had brought him, he
was able to play live concerts targeting the areas where enough of them lived to sell out a venue, performing short
and focused out of the way tours that were profitable enough, along with his digital sales and merchandise, to earn
him more money than his old day job had.

In 2007 his song "Code Monkey," inspired by his time working as a software engineer, was chosen to be the theme
song of G4's cartoon Code Monkeys and "Still Alive," written for the computer game Portal, won the Game Audio
Network's Song of the Year award. He also performed on The Daily Show and contributed guest appearances to nerdcore
albums like MC Frontalot's Final Boss and MC Lars' This Gigantic Robot Kills. In 2010, Coulton began opening shows
for They Might Be Giants, and later that year announced that he would be working with John Flansburgh on a new
album. The result was his eighth album, Artificial Heart, which was Coulton's first album to be produced by someone
other than the singer/songwriter himself.

Album Review

On his first album after returning from his self-imposed hiatus on recording new material, singer/songwriter
Jonathan Coulton draws upon the lessons of the Johns and Jonathans who have come before him on Artificial Heart.
The first John is They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh, who has the distinction of being the first person, other
than Coulton himself, to handle the production on one of his albums. Right out of the blocks, the album opener,
“Sticking It to Myself,” makes the hand of Flansburgh immediately apparent with a song that has that perfect mix of
eclecticism and solid pop songcraft upon which the TMBG man has made his name. Despite this, the album doesn’t come
off like Coulton’s audition reel for a spot in They Might Be Giants, as the songwriter deftly injects a lot of his
own personality into the songs through his lyrics. This brings us to the influential Jonathan, Jonathan Richman,
who Coulton -- with his ability to see the wonder, humor, and sadness in the mundane world -- feels like a
spiritual successor to. This quality allows Coulton to create songs that are more like little poignant slices of
life than pop constructions, breathing that spark of life into songs like “Glasses.” As an album, Artificial Heart
is like a panopticon that gives the listener the opportunity to observe an array of different lives, and offers
them the chance to feel a little something different while peering into each window. And even though it’s a more
emotionally heavy album than a lot of his previous work, Coulton still knows how to leave people with a smile,
ending the album with two new versions of his famous Portal and Portal 2 theme songs “Still Alive” (featuring a
guest spot from Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin) and “Want You Gone” (which features JoCo himself on vocals) as well as
“The Stache,” a touching tribute to mustaches and the men who proudly wear them. With this kind of effortless
versatility and easy charm, it’s no wonder Jonathan Coulton has managed to find a special place in people's hearts,
artificial or otherwise.

Track Listing

1. Sticking It to Myself
2. Artificial Heart
3. Nemeses Feat. John Roderick
4. The World Belongs to You
5. Today With Your Wife
6. Sucker Punch
7. Glasses
8. Je Suis Rick Springfield
9. Alone at Home
10. Fraud
11. Good Morning Tucson
12. Now I Am an Arsonist Feat. Suzanne Vega
13. Down Today
14. Dissolve
15. Nobody Love You Like Me
16. Still Alive Feat. Sara Quin
17. Want You Gone (Elegant Too Remix)
18. The Stache