Thing a Week 42: Creepy Doll I don’t know what’s going on with…

July 16th, 2011



Thing a Week 42: Creepy Doll

I don’t know what’s going on with this one, I just decided earlier this week that it was time to write a song about a creepy doll. I was thinking about various 70s horror movies that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Back then you didn’t need to torture people with chainsaws and drills to make a scary movie, it was enough just to have a doll that kept showing up. Or maybe a clown. I couldn’t keep a straight face though, somewhere in the middle of the song the doll just becomes not so much creepy as annoying. And before you post it in the comments, yes I know that it sounds like Bacteria in the beginning – it’s the same Glock sound and the same key, and kind of the same music. Sue me. We’re on song number 42 here people…

Also, just a little merch plug: I’ve just added T-shirts for “Re: Your Brains” to my CafePress store. The image is the song lyrics typed in memo form decorated with a delightful blood spatter. Buy zombies, buy!

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Yes, well, victory of course. This has become an important part of the repertoire. I didn’t know it at the time obviously, you never do. As a recording I don’t think it’s super great - I find it too slow, though part of that is because I’ve been playing it a lot faster live. And I wrote beyond my abilities on the guitar. I can imagine it being a lot more awesome when played by someone who can really play. Some nice elements in there I guess, though they sound a little pat to me now. I was already bracing myself for criticism about using the same spooky music box trick I used in Bacteria (and would later use in Still Alive). The reverse thing at the end is cool, but I had a devil of a time getting it to smoothly transition from the forward version to the reversed version.

Song-wise, I think it’s a good one. The chord progression sounds kind of unique to me, it wanders and is spooky, but doesn’t really hit you over the head with the usual spooky music tricks. And it’s funny, but it has enough subtlety to it that it doesn’t get too annoying. I do love the turn when you realize the doll is just kind of irritating. And the twist at the end, while standard in this genre, feels CORRECT anyway. I was thinking about that Stephen King story with the wind-up monkey, and I was thinking of the doll in Trilogy of Terror, and probably a couple other things I can’t remember.

That line about “if you really need that much honey” actually comes from my past. I had a girlfriend in high school whose Dad had a reputation in the family for being something of a type-A personality, and it’s true, he was absolutely nuts about turning lights off, not wasting food, and saving money. For some reason he bought powdered milk, mixed it up, and then served that to his family in equal proportions with regular whole milk - WHY? Nobody knows. He was the kind of guy who would gingerly slide the turn signal arm into place when he turned on the blinker, because he wanted the switch to last a long time. He drove everyone crazy. There was a framed photo somewhere in the house of him posed and smiling in a suit. His son, my girlfriend’s older brother, had taped a little comic-style talk bubble to it that said “Hey! Do you really need that much jelly?” I thought it was a hilarious character assassination, so I stole it for this. 

It’s all the little secrets you have about where things come from that make you feel a little fraudulent sometimes. The audience see a magic trick, but I see a box with a trap door in it that I bought at the magic store. I know that’s how everybody works, because I’ve seen bits of my life in things that my friends have created. It feels good, like a little secret shout out. And then I wonder about this particular reference. Does that family remember that joke as well as I do? And have they heard this song and did they recognize it? 

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.

Downtime and Broken Things

July 15th, 2011

Well, that transition was smooth until the fans stopped working and the processors got hot. There was a little downtime last night while my agents conspired to fix it and I slept peacefully, but I think we’re mostly back in business today.

Thank you for your alerts about what was broken and your comments about what has changed. Team JoCo is fixing things as they come to our attention, please let me know in this thread if you’re still having trouble with something and we’ll see what we can do. I have other long term plans for a bunch of stuff around these parts, this is really phase one we’re looking at now, so don’t panic.

In fact, save your panic for 12 noon because that’s when I am throwing the big switch that puts a bunch of new cabins on sale for JoCo Cruise Crazy 2. You may have noticed, we sold out of most kinds of cabins really quickly and have been out of them for weeks. We’ve got another round of cabins for you to decimate, and hope that you will do so. Expect me to report back here later about what I did wrong, or broke, or learned about how to not do things next time.

Whee!

Maintenance Time

July 12th, 2011

Just a heads up for those of you who spend all day refreshing this site to see if anything new happened (nope!): late tonight and tomorrow, some server monkeys are going to do some stuff and move this site over to a new server. While the DNS propagates some things will be read-only – the forums, the wiki, the comments. Don’t panic! Once your corner of the web gets the new info you’ll be back to read-write mode. You might not even notice.

Actually you will, because the site will have a little teensy weensy bit of a visual change, not a redesign mind you (which is long overdue), just a bit of a haircut. And we’re moving to Vanilla V2, which should be nicer looking, more secure, faster, and just different enough to make some of you COMPLETELY FURIOUS. But nothing should be broken and really we’ll all be better off.

Or, this whole thing could come crashing down. We don’t really know. You know what, why don’t you fill up the bathtub with fresh water just in case?

Thing a Week 41: Seahorse I was thinking about how with…

July 8th, 2011



Thing a Week 41: Seahorse

I was thinking about how with seahorses, the males are the ones who carry the fertilized eggs until they hatch. And then of course I started thinking of a sad seahorse, whose female had left him alone to care for the kids – AGAIN. I’m pretty sure this is not actually the way things really are for seahorses. But if it was, you know, this song would make sense.

I can’t believe we’re on Thing a Week V.

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Goink! Thing a Week V? Apparently I still hadn’t done the math to figure out the factors of 52. Ten is not a factor of 52, that’s sort of obvious. I guess I was just thinking that albums were ten songs long? Which they’re not. Who knows!

I keep reviewing the other blog posts chronologically close to the original Thing a Week one, and around here is where I can recognize the beginnings of me becoming too busy to blog properly. I was falling behind on everything, and it has stayed that way ever since. One of the first things to go was my ability to keep on top of things that people were sending me - stuff they made, stuff they noticed that was cool or stuff they found that was about me. Early on when I wasn’t getting much of these, I had the time to lavish attention on them in a way that they deserved. I still find it remarkable that anybody cares, and I still treasure every little drawing, video, story, half-pony half-monkey monster that comes across my radar. Unfortunately if I spent as much time studying and celebrating them as I wanted to, I would: 1) have no time to make music, and 2) be absorbed into my own ego so completely that the heat from my self-love would explode our solar system. Lately I’ve been so busy falling behind on things that I don’t even have the mind space for Twitter - TWITTER! Who doesn’t have time for Twitter?

But hey, listen to the mix on this song would you? Not too shabby. Drum loop that’s not too egregiously out of place, those lush vocals in the chorus (the patented JoCo doubled, hard-panned SPREAD (not actually patented, or mine)). What’s nice about it is that it hangs together as a whole really well - usually I can hear all the little individual parts sticking out, but this sounds pleasantly cohesive to me. Bassline in the verses: aces. Edie Brickell tremolo guitar in the left channel: you’re welcome. And my favorite, the little rush at the end of the chorus, which I think is a guitar strum run backwards.

The song is pretty. A fine melody, maybe not a lot of meat in the lyrics. I was consciously trying to write simply, to write Hemingway lyrics. I remember thinking it would be a challenge to use all one-syllable words. Of course by making this about a Seahorse, I failed out of the gate, but it was a nice guiding principle. And it’s sweet, if a little fluffy and inconsequential.

The bridge shares some DNA with the B-section of the verses from “I Crush Everything.” I can’t remember the precise details anymore, but I think I remember that line about the waves above going up and down trying to sneak its way into “Crush.” Or maybe it was the other way around? Either way, two songs about sad sea creatures:they’re bound to sound like siblings.

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.

Many JoCo News Items

July 8th, 2011

Hello fans of JoCo news item updates! Here are some for you.

Artificial Heart (the new record):

Waiting on the mastering folks right now, but it’s done from my end of things. Shooting for a release date roundabout the end of August/beginning of September, but waiting for a couple of last minute things to happen before I announce any actual date. I’m really excited about it – working with Flansburgh was fantastic fun and incredibly fruitful. I think you guys are going to like it.

I will be doing presales as soon as I can get that ready, most likely sometime in August. I’m working on a kinda sorta premium superfan pack that will contain a bunch of extra exclusive goodies. The CD packaging and all those extra goodies are being designed by friend, design genius, and crazy person Sam Potts (http://www.sampottsinc.com). It’s going to make for a very smart looking package of stuff. I’m not even going to call it a package of stuff, I’m going to call it an EXPERIENCE, because that’s what it is. More on this soon.

JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 (the new cruise):

We quietly launched our new Scarface-built booking site on June 17th and were immediately overwhelmed with bookings. The first 250 sold in a few hours, before we even had time to figure out what was going on and promote it to anyone. Soon after we sold through our inventory of cabins, and have been waiting for gears to turn and checks to clear so that we can get more inventory up and for sale. That is happening very soon. (I know we’ve been saying that for a while, but it has always felt true – all I can say is, we’re closer to it now than every before. Believe!)

Confirmed talent onboard includes me, Paul and Storm, John Hodgman, David Rees, Paul F. Tompkins, and MC Frontalot, with plenty more yet to be announced. It’s going to be a ton of fun. Watch our various blogs and twitter feeds for the announcement about when those new cabins will go on sale, and get yourself a seat PRONTO!

Touring (the new touring):

I’ll be doing a few of my own shows, as well as an awful lot of opening for They Might Be Giants over the next few months. A complete list follows, and details and tickets for all shows can be found on the shows page. Here are a couple of highlights for you, and then a list that nobody will care enough to read all the way through.

A Smaller Boat – on August 19th I’m playing a show on The Jewel, which is apparently a boat of some kind. It’s a band show, a rock cruise in the East River starring ME.

PAX Prime – it’s confirmed, I’ll be at PAX again this year the end of August, playing with the band. Wouldn’t it be great if I could sell you the new album that weekend? What a smart business thing that would be for me to have planned.

Dragon*Con – for the first time ever, I’ll be there. Please be gentle. On Friday the 2nd I’ll be with the band at my favorite Atlanta venue, the Variety Playhouse for the incredible ALBUM RELEASE PARTY, where history will be made. Paul and Storm will be there too. I’ll also be playing acoustically as part of a larger on campus evening show on Saturday night, plus a couple of panels and things. I will also slay a dragon.

Opening for They Might Be Giants – I’m a fan, you’re a fan, listen, these are going to all be great shows. July 29th at the Williamsburg Waterfront is a free show with me on acoustic. July 30th at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park is the same, except it isn’t free or in Williamsburg. The rest of the Giants shows in September and November will be band shows all. I hope you like rock.

Complete list of shows that involve me:

July 29 Brooklyn, NY – Williamsburg Waterfront with TMBG (acoustic, free show!) – http://bit.ly/join-us-brooklyn

July 30 Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony with TMBG (acoustic) – http://bit.ly/join-us-asbury-park

August 19 New York, NY – aboard The Jewel, under the stars on the East River (band) – http://tktwb.tw/qii5ci

August 26-28 Seattle, WA – PAX Prime, merch boothin’ it, big show, etc. (band) – http://prime.paxsite.com

September 2 Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse ALBUM RELEASE PARTY with Paul and Storm (band) – http://bit.ly/kFAulc

September 3 Atlanta, GA – Dragon*Con, location TBD, with Paul and Storm and others (acoustic) – http://www.dragoncon.org/

All the rest of these are band shows opening for TMBG:

Sept 8 New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place – http://bit.ly/join-us-new-haven

Sept 9 Great Barrington, MA – Mahaiwe Theater – http://bit.ly/join-us-great-barrington

Sept 10 Concord, NH – Capitol Center for the Arts – http://bit.ly/join-us-concord

Sept 11 Norwich, VT – Upper Valley Events Center – http://bit.ly/join-us-norwichvt

Sept 13 Ithaca, NY – State Theater – http://bit.ly/join-us-ithaca

Sept 14 Pittsburgh, PA – Byham Theater – http://bit.ly/join-us-pittsburgh

Sept 15 Rochester, NY – Harro East Ballroom – http://bit.ly/join-us-rochester

Sept 16 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom – http://tktwb.tw/join-us-cleveland

Sept 17 Detroit, MI – Majestic Theater – http://bit.ly/join-us-detroit

Sept 18 Grand Rapids, MI – Intersection – http://bit.ly/join-us-grand-rapids

Sept 20 Cincinnati, OH – Southgate House – http://ticketf.ly/join-us-cinci

Sept 22 Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue – http://bit.ly/join-us-indianapolis

Sept 23 Chicago, IL – Riviera Theatre – http://bit.ly/join-us-chicago

Sept 24 St. Louis, MO – The Pageant – http://bit.ly/join-us-st-louis

Sept 25 Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom – http://bit.ly/join-us-tulsa

Sept 27 Nashville, TN – Cannery Ballroom – http://bit.ly/join-us-nashville

Sept 28 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel – http://bit.ly/join-us-asheville

Sept 29 Richmond, VA – The National – http://bit.ly/join-us-richmond

Sept 30 Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts – http://bit.ly/join-us-philadelphia

Nov 4 Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot – http://bit.ly/join-us-slc

Nov 5 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory – http://ticketf.ly/join-us-boise

Nov 6 Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory – http://ticketf.ly/join-us-spokane

Nov 8 Vancouver, BC – Venue – http://bit.ly/join-us-vancouverbc

Nov 9 Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo – http://bit.ly/join-us-seattle

Nov 10 Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom – http://bit.ly/join-us-portland

Nov 11 Arcata, CA – Van Duzer Theatre – http://bit.ly/join-us-arcata

Nov 12 San Francisco, CA – Fillmore – http://bit.ly/join-us-san-fran12th

Nov 13 San Francisco, CA – Fillmore – http://bit.ly/join-us-san-fran13th

Nov 16 Anaheim, CA – House of Blues – http://bit.ly/join-us-anaheim

Nov 17 San Diego, CA – Belly Up – http://bit.ly/join-us-san-diego

Whew.