Artificial Heart discussion



  • Personally, I kept thinking, 'We can just wait until @Spiff makes a video of Dissolve, and then we'll know what's in the box.'
  • My guess: Monkeys.

    It's where he's been hiding them.
  • edited September 2011
    I'd have to have some kind of an idea what was being said in the Springfield before I could ever consider making it into a video. :)

    I hope people aren't holding their breaths too long for me to make the new songs into videos.  I had a good run, but I think I'm mostly worn out on the video making, so I've got nothing new planned.  That plus the fact that I'm not really in love with the new songs means that new videos are quite unlikely.  Sorry.
  • Had the album on repeat for just over a week now, still not bored. There's only two songs I regularly skip: Fraud, because it doesn't quite grab me, and Today With Your Wife because, boy, does it make me cry. I thought it was about adultery, but someone said it's about death and I can't un-know that. It's so beautiful, but on the second chorus I'm usually bawling too hard to see the lights change. (I do most of my music-listening in the car.)

    Sticking it to myself, Artificial Heart, Alone at home, Sucker Punch, Je suis Rick Springfield and Glasses are all responsible for any speeding tickets I'm picking up right now, THANKS VERY MUCH, Jonathan.

    I freakin LOVE Nemeses and Good Morning Tuscon - to me, these are quintessential JoCo. Great lyrics and fantastic tunes for singing along.

    Down Today has to be one of the cutest songs ever written. I have no idea what it's about - don't tell me it's about something horrible! I don't want to know - but the tune is really sweet and sunshiny and it makes me smile.

    Dissolve is...a bit weird. The verses are not really my cuppa and my finger goes to the skip button - but then the chorus hits me right in the face and I can't help but sing (or bellow, more like) along and startle the cyclists.

    Still Alive = still awesome after all these years. Plus I like Sara's voice.

    Want You Gone just makes me happy. The lyrics are a bit sad, of course, but the music is so lovely. The key change at the end of the verses (on "I've been shockingly nice" - if that is, in fact a key change, I'm just assuming here) makes me grin like a fool. If you got ticketed for grinning stupidly, I'd be broke right now.

    Tl; dr: I really, really like this album. :)

    PS @Spiff: *exhales* Awww Spiff, that makes me sad. Understandable, of course, but still. I was kinda hoping for a Nemeses video with rogues in :)
  • Don't worry! He's said in concert that Down Today is a happy breakup song.
  • And there was much rejoicing. Thank you!
  • @spiff B-but Spiff! What about all the Internet Monies and Famousness-points you'll be missing out on? How can you just walk away from all that? D:
  • I was never into it for the Internet Famousness.  It was always about the art, man. ;)  I still get a constant stream of comments on the videos from people who are just now stumbling upon them, so that's good that they're still acting as a sign post out in the world to point people towards JoCo's music.
  • Heretofore, I think arguably JoCo's saddest song has been When You Go. I saw a transition in his explanation of this song. He wrote it as a breakup song, people told him they thought it was about death and eventually I hear him simply say, "This is a song about leaving". I think Today with Your Wife is probably the same kind of song.
    That brings me to this point; I've heard other musicians that are asked, "What's this song about" respond simply by saying, "what do YOU think it's about?". On the one hand I get that, an artists job is not just to show you a picture of a tree but to cause you bring up feelings and perhaps to create your own narrative about a tree. A picture paints a thousand words they say.
    I notice that a lot of TMBG music has this quality in song form. Bits and pieces of a story that we put together ourselves to make a story. JoCo said himself in the podcast with Paul and Storm that he is attracted to this kind of music, using Famous Blue Raincoat as an example. So it's no surprise that the new songs follow this same idea.
    While I can listen to that and appreciate it. One thing I liked about JoCo's music was the narrative. His songs were little stories with a beginning, middle and end. That is what made it possible for @spiff to make movies off of. It's what makes it easy to come into the middle of his oeuvre and easily figure out what he's about and I think it is at least in part one of the secrets of his success. So secret he might not even realize it.
    I like the new album but I'd be disappointed if he never went back to his narrative form of writing.
  • edited September 2011
    That's it! It's not just the monkeys, it's the narrative! And songs in the second person! *listens to The World Belongs To You again*

    I like prose and short films that clearly show what happens and have proper beginnings, middles and ends (I've been disappointed by so many short films because they forgot about the end.) It's less important in songs (and is arguably a bad thing because you get everything on the first listen, instead of getting more ideas each time, though if you dig deep enough you can still write an essay about it), but it's still nice.

    That said, Now I Am An Arsonist (which he's said is just an impressionistic song and he doesn't know what it's about) and Nobody Loves You Like Me (about which he specifically said, 'I'm not going to say what it's about, I'm just going to sing it' before each of the first four performances) are perhaps the best-sounding songs on the album, and among my most-listened.

    I still haven't done a track-by-track review. It probably wouldn't be that interesting after I've already rambled so much anyway.
  • I have been enjoying the record deliberately in order.

    One question so far: 

    For the music theory folks out there: What exactly is going on in Fraud?  Is it an alternating time signature trick?  I thought my theory was decent, but I can't quite dissect this one to figure it out.  Any thoughts?
  • You all saw @Jutze's Tom Waits-style Nobody Loves You Like Me cover, right? It was inspired by this tweet, and it inspired this tweet.
  • @kate: I'm not sure what you mean about Fraud. There's something slightly odd going on - I initially thought sesquialtera, but then I checked back and realised it's a triple pulse all the way through. However, it does seem to change in a way you could notate as the intro and chorus being in 3/4, with 6/4 verses. The length of those beats stays precisely the same throughout though. I'd characterise it as a simple shift of emphasis and sub-phrase length. Didn't that sound posh!
  • Quite posh, @MaW! :)
  • @robgonzo - When You Go isn't even a breakup song, it's a song about a child growing up and leaving home. (I would say that's just my opinion, but I'm pretty sure he said as much in Thing a Week Redux.) Today With Your Wife is less obvious. While it's easy to read death into it there's a lot more room for interpretation, which I agree seems to be the intent.

    I also agree completely about this album being deliberately less narrative. That P&S podcast is not the first time Jonathan has vaunted a more "impressionistic" style. That's why, while I love the idea of JoCo continuing the TaW:Redux project to Artificial Heart, I'm not sure these songs were ever meant to be fully explained to the audience.

  • "I also agree completely about this album being deliberately less narrative. That P&S podcast is not the first time Jonathan has vaunted a more "impressionistic" style."

    Do you all think he was successful? I love TMBG, but they've always been enigmatic with their song meanings. I'm not used to it from JoCo. Now I Am An Arsonist is the best example - it's beautiful and poetic and has lovely imagery, but I find it frustrating that that is all it is, because it appears to be about something. But apparently it isn't. 
  • I went back to read the Thing a Week Redux entry on When You Go, and you're right that he was thinking of his own daughter leaving home when he wrote it.  He also talks about how many different interpretations he's heard for it over the years, and how proud he is of it. 

    "....But it is a powerful thing to put an honest,
    personal song out there and have it bounced back at you as a completely
    different, but no less honest and personal story from someone else. It’s
    a sure sign to me that I have done something right, something that,
    however small, is somehow still important."

    So he obviously likes the idea of songs that might be "meant" one way, but can be read in any number of other ways.  For example I would bet that Now I Am an Arsonist means something particular to him, and he's just not saying what it is.
  • Problem is, with Arsonist in particular, is that I can't glean any meaning from it. It seems to bounce around to different imagery, different narrators, different nonsense situations. The snippets of different things don't coalesce into anything. Or I'm not smart enough to make it do so for me. 
  • I am not so sure Now I Am an Arsonist has a definite meaning to JoCo; it's bouncing around pretty-sounding dactyls beginning with arrr and ass and arrrse (which is why I think it'd be funny for Paul and Storm to sing, faster, and with melodica and shakers/fart noises) which may have been chosen more for their sound than for their meaning. But it does sound great, and I can imagine all sorts of stories behind it.
  • edited September 2011
    I've got several things out of Arsonist, though. There's some definite Icarus-imagery there, for instance, which is a hubris-story. I think there's more than one story in there - I think there's one Icarus hubris-story, and another concurrent story about someone who has fame and success, but is being killed by it and is trying to escape.

    Those are just vague impressions, though. I'm not about to do a line-by-line analysis to support it, but it's certainly not an entirely closed book to me. I think JoCo meant it to be the sort of song where what the song is about is up to the listener much more than the singer. And of course, that demands a hell of a lot more of us than Re: Your Brains, so I'm only pleased he had the kindness to also make it a beautiful song.
  • And of course, that demands a hell of a lot more of us than Re: Your Brains, so I'm only pleased he had the kindness to also make it a beautiful song.

    Right... we don't get the tootsie roll straight away, but we get to lick some delicious ear candy on the way to it. And frankly, anyone who doesn't like that can bite it. :p

    It's a new genre... Tootsie pop-rock.

    (Note to self: try a Tootsie Pop next time I'm in the US.)

  • I once tried to pop a Tootsie, and I only barely got out of the country before the FBI caught up to me.
  • Are you saying they don't have Tootsie Pops, over there?
  • No, and we don't have Hostess Twinkies, either, but the cheese and the trains are good, and there's enough soap for a geek like me.
  • Enough Soap for a Geek is the name of my Staind cover band.
  • The Cheese and the Trains are Good is the name of my Dutch political party. Except in Dutch, obviously.
  • That's the name of my Swiss political party! Except in German, French, Italian, Rumantsch, American Sign Language and semaphore, obviously.
  • American Sign Language and Semaphore, Obviously is the name of my indie-band.
  • My Swiss Political Party is the name of my Eurovision winning songs cover band. It's an eclectic set, from 'Waterloo' in laid-back reggae style to 'Hard Rock Hallelujah' arranged for six accordions, four ukuleles and a nine-part choir of lady cats in heat.
  • Am I the only one who thinks that The World Belongs to You is sung from the point of view of a slightly delusional mega-rich (TV-)preacher? He's addressing God/Jesus/Younameit, still believing, while he's about to be swallowed by the mega-richness life-style (cue: limousine).

    As for the rest of the album, there are a few songs I enjoy, but IMHO he didn't use enough monkeys.
  • Listening to the Artificial Heart cover album in progress by someone on this forum, forgot who (posts were made about it earlier in this thread or another). It's inspired by the original album, but the songs are performed a LOT differently. I like.

    I will give some more new thoughts and insights about the original album/songs soon. Been listening to it a lot on the bus to/from class, though I've also been listening to TMBG and other recently released albums.
  • Apparently the song Artificial Heart is about Scientology. Which never would have occurred to me in a million years. But I like it. 

  • @librarian I had the same thought with the lyric "I look at the walls and they go clear"

    Apparently "go clear" is a scientology thing...
  • You know, there is a lot of Scientology footage on

    Just sayin'.....
  • That's interesting about the 'clear' thing.  It also turns out - confirmed by Cohen himself - that Famous Blue Raincoat's "did you ever go clear?" is a Scientology reference. I had always just assumed it was some drug reference.
  • edited September 2011
    Regarding the Artificial Heart packages, more t-shirt info:

    barts185 Bartholomew Simpson
    @jonathancoulton Is there a size chart for the shirts in the packages? Wasn't sure if it was same as on site, and even then - which company?

    jonathancoulton Jonathan Coulton
    @ @barts185 Working on that. There will be a chance to change/confirm before shipping.

  • Yes, I think Jonathan has mentioned the reference in Famous Blue Raincoat...
  • Whoa, I never thought about that song being about Scientology. It makes a lot of sense.
  • I think I missed something. Did JoCo say it was about scientology, or is this speculation?
  • @angelastic As posted in another thread

    This article mentions it:

    "[Interviewer] I like the album’s title track. What was the inspiration?

    I was actually thinking of a kind of cultish thing, like scientology. I don’t want to say that out loud because I’ll get sued..."
  • Ah, right. I'd opened that link but hadn't read it yet. I had been wondering how Suzanne Vega (and Sara Quin) came to be involved, so the article answers half of that. 
  • thanks for that link Kate. I had not yet read that article.
  • I have been mishearing the lyrics to "Famous Blue Raincoat" all this time as "did you ever go clean" and thought it was about drugs.
  • I imagined "going clear" somehow meant he was going to clean up his act, and be more "transparent"... ha ha
  • I always figured the Famous Blue Raincoat was a scientology reference. Which made the song only slightly less opaque. 
  • edited September 2011
    So, now that I've heard about the term "going clear" being a Scientology thing, and that JoCo was thinking about (things like) Scientology when writing "Artificial Heart", I get the lines "They gave me a test to make the best that I could be / They knew all along that there was something wrong with me". Scientologists want you to take tests that'll tell you what's "wrong" with you and then tell you how you can become "better" (so they can indoctrinate you and make money off you). Or something like that, I'm not a scientologist.
  • I also assumed the Famous Blue Raincoat thing was about drugs, although I didn't mishear it. Is it that the scientologists think JoCo is rich enough to woo, now, and that's why he knows the term?
  • @MaW, in "Fraud", the intro is 4/4 (listen to the guitar), then it breaks to 3/4. When he sings "wish it dead, ask it to leave but it stays instead", that is a 10/4 measure, then it goes back to 3/4.
  • I just got an email from the Swiss iTunes store saying Artifiical Heart is available. :)
  • I think "The World Belongs To You" is an hilarious metaphor for not being able to let go of a creative project. Call it finished and move on, dammit! I wonder if JoCo got to feeling that way about the album? Can't stop tinkering...
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