"Still Alive"

by Jonathan Coulton and Ellen McLain


My taste in video games runs to Arkanoid and Bust-A-Move 4, so the last thing I figured to be recommending here was the closing-credits theme of Portal, a new first-person shooter from Bellevue manufacturer Valve. Jonathan Coulton is a Brooklyn DIY singer-songwriter; Ellen McLain is the Seattle voice actor who plays Portal's passive-aggressive mechanical narrator. The words, Coulton says on his blog, were meant to "tie up the story arc at the end." According to my friends who've played Portal, the lyrics do so neatly. But if you're coming to it unawares, lines like, "Anyway this cake is great/It's so delicious and moist/Look at me still talking when there's science to do," are baffling in an intriguing way, especially coupled with a tune that's just about impossible to shake. Besides, the scary triumphalism of the closing lines make their own context, even sung by a twee vocal processor: "While you're dying I'll be still alive/And when you're dead I will be still alive."

"Bring Trance Back"

by Burger/Voigt


Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger haven't worked together since 1996, when they recorded the cultishly loved Las Vegas, but there's nothing all that retro about this tongue-in-cheekily titled 12-inch, both of whose sides—"Bring Trance Back to Life" on the A, "Bring Trance Back to Reality" on the B—utilize many of the same components. (Slide guitar appears throughout "Life" and less often during "Reality," for instance.) But the ends are quite different: "Life" isn't the aggressively heartwarming stuff that brings to mind Hummel figurines covered in glow sticks; it's too loose and humane for that—the tune breathes too easily. Likewise, "Reality" softens the hard-machine sound of early-'90s trance into an attractive gray smear.recommended

"I've Had It"

by Catatonic Youth

(Fuck Jazz; myspace.com/catatonicnoose)

From Lüneburg, Germany: a punk duo with a needling organ buried in the mix, their three two-minute songs found for sale (at Sonic Boom in Capitol Hill) in a plastic bag containing a black-and-white print of a Raymond Pettibon homage and CD. This first song is formalist trash: The title might as well be the whole lyric, the mood is pure petulance, the sound is spot-perfect enough to hit repeat. What really caught my eye about the package, though, is its promise, as reiterated in an older message on the group's MySpace page, that this CD single was but a preview of a 7-inch—digital as proving ground for your songs before you commit them, like marriage, to vinyl. recommended