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Artist Spotlight: Jonathan Coulton

Today I'd like to feature an artist that I've known about for quite some time - in fact, I featured him on my Free Christmas Music blog way back in November 2007, and he was a small part of my massive Halloween Treat Bag post last October.  Somehow I manage to keep rediscovering him every year or so, and I think it's about time he's had a proper artist spotlight here.
Until recently, my source for free Jonathan Coulton music has always been his MP3 store, in which nearly three dozen songs can be downloaded for free (they are conveniently marked with a little smiley face icon in the "Free" column; clicking on the smiley face for a song brings up a page of information about that song, including a link to an MP3).  This in itself is a pretty incredible collection of free music, and even if you venture no further into Coulton's website, you will still come away with some excellent music.  However, I have recently become aware of the fact that even more of his music can be found for free on his site if you're willing to do some digging around.
When I began listening to Coulton's non-Christmas music last year, someone recommended the song "Re Your Brains" to me.  That song, unfortunately, has no smiley face icon in the MP3 store, so I actually ventured over to YouTube (something I rarely do, as online video is not something I typically enjoy) and found a pretty funny video that set the song to images from World of Warcraft.  When Lifehacker posted their interview with Jonathan Coulton, I was surprised that the link to "Re Your Brains" was not to a video (like the link to the Portal theme song was), but rather to a blog post on Coulton's website.  Following that link, I was delighted to find, at the end of the post, a link to the "Re Your Brains" MP3.  A few more links led me to a very impressive source of free music: the Thing a Week podcast.  This was an extremely ambitious project in which Jonathan aimed to record and release one new song every week for a year, from September 2005 to September 2006.  A look at the podcast's page reveals the results of that experiment: 52 blog posts, one for each week of that year, each containing a link to an MP3 download of that week's song.
If you've looked at his MP3 store, then you're likely already familiar with a lot of these songs, as most of the free songs there (the ones with smiley faces) are from the Thing a Week project, which is split into four volumes in the MP3 store.  Still, the remaining Thing a Week songs nearly double the amount of free music available from Coulton, and there are some real gems in there.  "Re Your Brains", sung from the point of view of an annoying former co-worker turned zombie, is certainly among the best, especially when the whole gang of zombies joins in for the super catchy chorus.  His cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" is something that simply has to be heard to be believed.  There are a few more covers in the project, with my favourite being Queen's "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions", which was the final song of the project and contains some excellent vocal harmonies.  Another favourite of mine is "I'm Your Moon", an original song about Pluto which is sung from the point of view of its moon, Charon; unusual points of view like this pop up in quite a few of Coulton's songs.  With 52 songs to pick from, I'm sure that just about anyone will be able to find something to enjoy.
One more place where I've found some free Jonathan Coulton music is, surprisingly, the Popular Science website.  In 2005, they did a special issue called "Future of the Body", for which Coulton provided a soundtrack EP entitled Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Cybernetic Arms.  This 5 song EP can be downloaded in its entirety right here, and it is well worth checking out, as there are some real gems on it.  It's gotten a lot of play since I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and "I Feel Fantastic" has been stuck in my head for quite a while now.  Check it out, along with whatever else looks interesting to you, and happy listening!

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