Artificial Heart discussion



  • @kate >> Well, Still Alive is just the album-version - there are no appreciable differences that I can here. And Nobody Loves You Like Me, well, again, not really a different arrangement, just a live-version. So yeah. I mean, you can rip them yourself pretty easily - there are websites out there that do it - I'm just not bothered :P
  • @skyen D'oh -me on the Still Alive arrangement.  And, I appreciate your view on Nobody.  Thanks!
  • It is different! He shortened the 'you's and lengthened the 'cov'! :)
  • From
    Say, who’s that way up at the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums
    chart? Why it’s our old pal geek rock troubadour Jonathan Coulton!
    Congrats to JoCo (and to producer John Flansburgh of They Might Be
    Giants fame) on the success of Artificial Heart.

    And, if upon hearing of Coulton’s mainstream acclaim, you immediately
    thought about how much you prefer his earlier work, congratulations to
    you as well… as you are now a hipster.

  • Charting 125 on the Billboard 200 isn't too bad either! Nor is holding #26 on Rock Albums. *sniff* ... our little Coulton is all grown up and ready to take on the mainstream... has anyone got a tissue?
  • The album hitting the Billboard charts is wonderful news, and showcases the fact that ARTISTS NO LONGER NEED RECORD LABELS. Hopefully Jonathan Coulton is one example of many to follow.
  • It's so gratifying whenever someone with actual singing/songwriting/musical talent is successful - kind of restores my faith in the music buying public :)
  • @kaylum
    Every time I hear another song with auto-tuned singing on the radio, a little piece of me dies.
  • Where's that NPR Snuggie lady? Just waiting for her to dismiss this.
  • I think Kate is onto something. I created this a couple hours ago just because I know someone, somewhere, is thinking it.
  • edited November 2011
    Performed an experimental cover of "Today With Your Wife" last weekend on piano, with a cellist playing the bass line. (I transposed it down a step to G to give myself some headroom. I'm a bass/baritone, and E above middle C -- the top note of the song before transposition -- is the highest note I can hit reliably in full voice. This also made it much easier for the cellist, who was winging it; G is a very strong open note on the cello and one of the best keys for the instrument. No chord mods except for a couple of 4-over-5s at the ends of the verses and one 4-over-2, added spontaneously by the cellist.) Most of the folks who were listening liked it. One who had never heard of JoCo guessed the song was written by Dave Grusin or (when I told him it wasn't) Dan Fogelberg. Another said it was "disturbing." Yet another said it was pretty but she didn't "get" it. Certainly provoked some thought and some interest.
  • Sticking it to Myself has been reposted!

  • Excellent version! I can't wait to have this entire Alternate Heart album assembled.
  • Artificial Heart is one of Amazon's December $5 MP3 albums of the month. With its current 5-star rating, that should bump the sales numbers nicely.
  • @skyen, do you plan on converting the above video of Sticking it to Myself into an mp3? 
  • Thanks! Have all the new videos been done? I don't think I have all the mp3s...
  • I didn't do Nobody Loves You Like Me because it's almost exactly the same as on the album. I didn't do Still Alive because it IS exactly the same as on the album.

    Other'n that... Down Today, Je Suis Rick Springfield, Sticking It To Myself, Today With Your Wife and Nemeses. Also Tonight You Belong To Me with John Hodgman that's not on the album but frankly should be.

    Have I missed anything?
  • @skyen is awesome
  • @skyen Possibly this little number?

  • @AuntBabe and @MaW -  I "think" Fraud is in a 6/8 over all.  The reason the underlying "current" feels wierd is that the 16th notes have a duple emphasis in the intro rather than the triple lilt of rest of the song- it's a constant line of 16th that changes the emphasis between duple and triple-  -- -- -- vs --- --- within the down and upbeats of the 6/8.

    I find myself wanting to like more of the songs on the album more than I actually do but I'll keep listening to it before I specify more.   My favorite is definitely Nobody Loves You Like Me.


  • Fraud is probably best counted in 6/8.

    JoCo is singing on beats 1 and 4 in the "I bet you feel tapped out" section.

    As diagrammed below, the bar lines are indicated by bars (|)! As mentioned above, the piece is in 6/8, except in the measures it drops into 4/8.

    (6/8) [Intro]
    ------ | ------ | ------ | ------ |
    ------ | ------
    It | wears you thin |
    Unpacks a bag and it | settles in |
    Ten times an hour you'll | wish it dead |
    Ask it |(4/8) to leave but it |(6/8) stays instead |
    ------ |
    So unkind |
    Acting as if you could | read its mind |
    Making it hard to | explain without 
    Finding |(4/8) new things to com |(6/8) plain about |
    ------ |
    Sharp teeth | test your skin |
    Too late, | you let an angel | in
    ------ | ------ | ------ | ------ |
    It's all been done |
    So many accidents, | only one |
    Paints you the picture you | want to see 
    Cover |(4/8) one eye and look |(6/8) carefully |
    ------ |
    Big surprise |
    It doesn't care about | second tries |
    You're afraid whatever | choice you make
    Won't be |(4/8) exactly the |(6/8) right mistake
    ------ |
    Sharp teeth | test your skin |
    Too late, | you let an angel | in
    I | bet you | feel tapped | out
    and | nothing | left to | talk a | bout
    I | guess you're | right
    You | fraud ----- |
    ------ | ------ | ------
    It | tells you lies |
    You say you won't but you | compromise |
    Just don't imagine you'll | ever win
    Any |(4/8) race you aren't |(6/8) running in |
    It | follows through |
    Four in the morning it's | calling you
    What's | the over-under on | getting it
    Done with |(4/8) out always re | gretting it? |
    ------ |
    Sharp teeth | test your skin |
    Too late, | you let an angel | in 
    ---- | ------ | ------ | ------ | - 
  • @srdownie There was definitely something bugging me about my brief analysis when I left work- thanks for pointing it out and clarifying it so well!

    As for my own take on the album as a whole after listening to it through a number of times since yesterday: *caveat- my opinions/reactions/connections to various songs are subject to change without notice (inside my head)


    Nobody Loves You Like Me- It's so beautiful and simplistic.. and haunting all at the same time, I love the A Capella nature of the song and the slightly off-beat bass pluck for a bit of depth.  I don't see this changing (in my head) for a while, if at all.

    Runners up:

    Sticking it to Myself-  The opening melodic motive really appeals to me-  the Maj 6 up and then down a dim 5th (or augmented 4th) really perks up my ears and reminds me of "My Time of Day" from Guys and Dolls (one of my favorite musicals) where (in the movie) Marlon Brando sings the same descending interval.

    Nemeses- Speaks for itself


    Artificial Heart- I love the lyrics, drive, accompanyment, and chord progressions.

    Fraud- Really liking this one- the 6/8 time and the hemiola feel- I love mixed meter and tend to like songs that aren't in 2/4 or 4/4.Like:

    Je Suis Rick Springfield-  I really like this song- the tune and beat are catchy and I have a weakness for songs en Francais.  The lyrics are also great and subject to such a variety of interpretations- I can't keep the image a fez-wearing, accordian dancing monkey singing the song dans le bar.

    Down Today- What a catchy song!  The style reminds me a bit of the Kinsgton Trio

    Still Alive-  I picked up Portal just to get to the end but just haven't had time to play what with Star Wars the Old Republic being released (shush Jon!) and other things going on..  I really love the studio version and Sara is just awesome!

    Good Morning Tuscon- Again- good melody and ubpeat works for me and I enjoy the lyrics 

    The World Belongs to You- Catchy tune and I just like it... so there!

    Alone at Home- I do enjoy this wistful gem of a song

    The Stache- I like the lyrics a lot and the tempo/style changes appeal to my musicality (again.. in my head)

    Now I Am an Arsonist- I actually find the slower tempo appealing and the duet with Suzanne Vega is stellar.


    Today With Your Wife-  I'm liking it slightly more every time I listen to it but it just doesn't do anything for me... yet ;-)

    Sucker Punch- Nice and upbeat tune/drive and it's slowly growing on me but I don't see it breaking out of it's initial impression

    Want You Gone- It's ok but hasn't really hooked me in any memorable way


    Glasses-While I wear them, the song really hasn't gripped me and I (shamefully?) find myself wanting to skip past it

    Dissolve- I just can't into this one and I'm still at a loss as to why my ear doesn't like it.

    So all in all, a really good album and I enjoy the majority of the songs and I'm looking forward to getting to know them even better.   I like the idea of treating the last three songs as "bonus tracks" and ending the album (again, in my head) with Nobody Loves You Like Me.    


  • Dissolve is my very favorite, to me it sounds so beautiful and compelling!
  • I'm very much into Dissolve as well. The music is light and rocky and the lyrics are heavy and interpretable, my kind of thing :)

    Glasses is much the same thing - I am a complete sucker for a song that tells a story.

    I should perhaps disclaim that I adore the entire album at this point. I used to be lukewarm on stuff like Fraud, Je Suis Rick Springfield and The World Belongs To You, but they grew on me very quickly. It didn't hurt that I pretty much had the album on repeat for months.

    I still prefer the quiet acoustic version of Alone at Home to the hard-line album version, though.
  • Fraud is the only song that has not grown on me. I love the entire album, otherwise.
  • I think the sequence of songs beginning with Fraud and culminating with Nobody Loves You Like Me is one of the strongest since the well-crafted song runs of Randy Newman or even Huey Lewis and his News.

    The only songs I tend to skip are Today With Your Wife (good song, but, as is the case with Newman's Losing You, it isn't where my emotional sympathies lie) and the Portal resurrections (I prefer the originals, which, as a Theremin owner, pains me a bit).

    Great album, worthy of a Level Four purchase!
  • My lyrical favourite of the album has grown to be Glasses. It used to be The World Belongs to You, but Glasses has snuck its way into my heart.
    It just feels like sort of the midpoint between Shop Vac and Now I Am An Arsonist - it's about the life of married, urban middle-class, but it has evocative language and odd metaphors - it only really says one thing outright: "I like you in glasses," but communicates so much, and it is so very much about love without ever really being "a love-song" as we know the genre.

    On the topic of the trickling music-videos the Coulton is releasing, I really look forward to seeing what he'll do with Now I Am An Arsonist - will he have the sultry voice of Suzanne Vega on his side, or is there a different card up his sleeve?

    Also, am I the only one who thinks he should leave it to The Onion to produce the video for Good Morning Tucson? I mean, I can't be the only one thinking Today, Now!'s Jim and Tracy when I hear that thing, right? Right?
  • srdownie: Here's a theremin showing up in a song, but it's not Coulton.  Not sure if it's your style or not...the theremin takes a solo at roughly the 5 minute mark.  

    Got the the headphones.....
  • Thanks for sharing that "pirated" music! Gotta love Mr. Wooten. Alas, the Theremin is pretty much a sound effect in that recording.

    To play real melodies on the Theremin is very difficult. I think Theremin is the toughest instrument out there. And it was originally marketed by RCA in 1929 as the "easiest" because it had no keys or strings!

    Here's a vid of a guy who can really play the thing.

  • This lady right here also has some serious control over the thing.

    It's incredible how someone with good control can make it sound like the clearest, most beautiful violin.
  • Thanks for pirating that performance, @skyen! I had not seen that. She is amazing.

    Unless you've tried to play a Theremin, you can't appreciate how difficult it is to do what she did. As she mentions, she can hardly even breathe while performing. Why? Because when you breathe, your belly poots out and changes the capacitance detected by the antennae. Anything that moves changes pitch and volume, so you and all your internal organs have to remain in one place or else you'll have to recalibrate your hand and finger positions.

    But a Theremin is useful at Halloween no matter what.
  • But on the other hand, @srdownie, how often does a person's internal organs change position? :P
  • When you're standing in front of a Theremin, you'd be surprised. "What happened to my pitch?" you'll ask yourself. "Oh. I just took a breath."

    And I don't even want to think about what happens when a recently-consumed meal migrates from the stomach to the intestines!
  • Starting to suspect @srdownie is trying to deliver a secret message here.
  • If I acknowledge your remark, @Bry, then it would no longer be a secret, would it?
  • As the old saying goes; the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same thing, I can't help thinking there is very little love for the song 'Glasses'. For me, this is my absolute favourite song on the album. The lyrics always threaten to bring a tear to my eye.
    I don't think it has anything to do with 'glasses' per se, but about you stopping and taking note of the smaller, more insignificant things in life. The song outlines the major landmarks in everyone's life, growing up, meeting a partner, having kids, moving house, getting old. It tells us that life moves so fast, we need to stop and look around us and acknowledge the little things. There is still love and we still love one another, no matter what goes wrong or how hard things can be.
    Perhaps I like it so much because I appreciate what Jonathan is saying; i've grown up, found a wife, moved house, had children, and now we're growing old together. And I'm amazed at how fast life moves on.
    However, I appreciate other peoples perception of the song may be different - like all Joco's songs, their content is subjective!
    But still, I love Glasses and just hope Jonathan decides to do a music video very soon!
  • I love "Glasses" too, though I was more than a little disappointed that he didn't keep its original title, "Untitled Song about Marriage."  That seemed like a perfect title for that song, somehow.
  • Just catching up so had to read the whole thread...
    First @skyen you had up until this point remind me of a republic serial villain, I apologise but then nothing ever ends...

    Second without wanting to bring up the whole music theory* thing again (sorry @Bry (who watches him?**)) syncopation was mentioned. JC uses bluegrass banjo on more than a few songs and mentions he like it in a few place. Syncopation is a big part of playing a banjo so I wouldn't put it past him that there was some happening.

    Thirdly, I love it when people analyse things (my fiancee is a Lit Grad) especially when they over analyse things, sometimes songs are just words people put together and that is all, not about space shuttles.
    But I am aware of how much JoCo has written into some things, so it's easy to look for something in everything. I've just listend to all of artificial heart and be First of Mayed if I can make some of the songs be about the things discussed here, but then I am an Engineer at heart so that probably explains that.

    Fourthly, Glasses is possibly one of my favourite songs from JoCo and has one of my favourite lyrics ever in it.

    House shifts into place
    A little breathing space
    The radiators and the floorboards will argue while we sleep

    Done without accompaniment it jumps out of the song and is absolutely amazing. Not quite Best.Lyric.Ever but up there and I'm a huge Jim Morrison fan so he has some lyrics to beat.

    I love the imagery of the couple growing old together, possibly childhood sweethearts. It give me a warm fuzzy glow. Don't tell me its about death!

    *interesting it is still only a theory after so many years.
    **second watchmen reference
  • edited January 2012
    Apparently there are at least two Nemeses videos made using footage from Season 2 of the BBC's Sherlock series on YouTube. They both had spoiler warnings, so I refrained from watching them and posting here (assuming that there are others who watch the show). I put them in my watch for later playlist, so when Sherlock S2 finally airs in the U.S. this May, I'll be able to check 'em out. If you've already seen those episodes, consider this your heads-up.

    Update: If you haven't seen Sherlock S1, all three episodes are being shown online on the PBS website for a limited time only (sorry for drifting off-topic).
  • Every last single one of you needs to watch Sherlock. I'm just saying, you really do.

    And yeah, I've had it in my head that Nemeses would be about the perfect Holmes/Moriarty-theme. Except for a few lines and niggles, but mostly.

    That, or it'd be perfect for Megamind.
  • edited January 2012
    Any superhero/action movie would work, that's the beauty of that song. Also Seinfeld/Newman, Indiana Jones (from the point of view of a snake - think about it), Homer/Flanders. I'm surprised JoCo never held a TMBG-style music video contest for it. The possibilities for nemeses are endless.... 

    Sherlock is the best thing to come out of the UK since Monty Python.
  • *interesting [music theory] is still only a theory after so many years.
    Teach the controversy!
  • edited January 2012
    Teach the contrabass!
  • Teach the counterpoint melody!
  • teach the countfeit melony?
  • Counterfeit the illegal melons!
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