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Jonathan Coulton

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 Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow EP (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 his website. He let people listen to the songs for free as well as selling MP3s and CDs, discovering that 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. Released without a label, the album made a strong showing, reaching number 125 on the Billboard Top 200, a further indicator of Coulton's self-made success. A year later he reached an entirely new audience when he became the house musician on the NPR radio program Ask Me Another, where, along with some of his own songs, he played song parodies as part of the show's trivia questions. While juggling his work with NPR, Coulton continued to write and record, collaborating with Long Winters' frontman John Roderick on a 2012 Christmas album and releasing a 2014 concert album titled JoCo Live. Working with comic book writer Greg Pak, he developed a graphic novel based on characters in his songs titled Code Monkey Save World. In 2017, Coulton returned with a concept record called Solid State, which was accompanied by its own graphic novel. ~ Jody Macgregor
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Stations Featuring
Jonathan Coulton

Albums by
Jonathan Coulton

Top Songs by
Jonathan Coulton

  1.   Song
  2.   Baby Got Back
  3.   I Will
  4.   Skullcrusher Mountain
  5.   Don't Talk to Strangers
  6.   Still Alive
  7.   Code Monkey
  8.   Ikea
  9.   Brave
  10.   We Will Rock You
  11.   Shop Vac
  12.   Want You Gone
  13.   Re: Your Brains
  14.   All This Time
  15.   Creepy Doll
  16.   The Future Soon
  17.   Wake Up
  18.   Gratuitous Applause
  19.   Zombie Instructions
  20.   Sticking It to Myself
  21.   Famous Blue Raincoat
  22.   Under the Pines
  23.   We Are the Champions
  24.   Take Care of Me
  25.   Chiron Beta Prime
  26.   Flickr
  27.   See You All in Hell
  28.   There You Are
  29.   All to Myself, Pt. 1
  30.   Sunshine
  31.   Ball and Chain
  32.   Don't Feed the Trolls
  33.   Solid State
  34.   Blue Sunny Day
  35.   Now I Am an Arsonist by Suzanne Vega
  36.   Nobody Loves You Like Me
  37.   Good Morning Tucson
  38.   Glasses
  39.   Down Today
  40.   Artificial Heart
  41.   The Princess Who Saved Herself
  42.   You Ruin Everything
  43.   I Feel Fantastic
  44.   Tom Cruise Crazy
  45.   When You Go
  46.   The Presidents
  47.   Just as Long as Me
  48.   Pizza Day
  49.   You Ruined Everything
  50.   Stroller Town
  51.   A Talk with George
  52.   Drive
  53.   Furry Old Lobster
  54.   You Wouldn't Know by Ellen McLain
  55.   Square Things
  56.   The World Belongs to You
  57.   The Stache
  58.   Nemeses by John Roderick
  59.   Je Suis Rick Springfield
  60.   Fraud
  61.   Dissolve
  62.   Alone at Home
  63.   Till the Money Comes
  64.   Madelaine
  65.   Drinking with You
  66.   Skymall
  67.   Seahorse
  68.   Big Bad World One
  69.   Mr. Fancy Pants
  70.   I'm Your Moon
  71.   Pull the String
  72.   Summer's Over
  73.   Curl
  74.   Someone Is Crazy
  75.   Brand New Sucker
  76.   The Town Crotch
  77.   Podsafe Christmas Song
  78.   Mandelbrot Set
  79.   I Crush Everything
  80.   First of May
  81.   Not About You
  82.   Soft Rocked by Me
  83.   Pictures of Cats
  84.   Pulled Down the Stars
  85.   My Monkey
  86.   Resolutions
  87.   Sibling Rivalry