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It was happy at the start...
March 9, 2013 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Jon Brion gets around. As a composer, he scored some of the best movies of last decade and change – Punch-Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Synecdoche, New York, and I Huckabees. As a producer, he's worked with Fiona Apple, Kanye West, Aimee Mann, and the excellent bluegrass outfit Punch Brothers. He writes pop music like the best of them – witness Meaningless, Knock Yourself Out, Here We Go, or Didn't Think It Would Turn Out Bad for a nice sampler of his style and range. His live shows are notoriously whimsical and eccentric – he's apt to perform Radiohead's "Creep" in the style of Tom Waits, or cover Stairway to Heaven as a one-man band, recreating all the parts to its climax on the fly.
posted by Rory Marinich (20 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

Note: I tried to avoid sprawl as much as possible in this post, linking to one track per score or collaboration instead of dumping a whole load of songs on y'all. The one exception was for I ♥ Huckabees, which is one of my all-time favorite film scores – and I couldn't fit in all of my most-loved tracks for that in the post without it looking ridiculous, so here's one more from that score. I love it so.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:42 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really like Open Your Heart, performed by Mia Doi Todd, produced by Jon Brion, with a video directed by Michel Gondry.
posted by iloveit at 9:54 AM on March 9, 2013

Brion features prominently in this excellent episode of 99% Invisible, talking about songs vs. performance pieces. He plays a little bit of Nirvana's "Lithium" on piano to illustrate and it's really amazing.
posted by chrchr at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Brion really is a talented dude. If you're in LA, you should check out his performances at Largo.
posted by spiderskull at 10:35 AM on March 9, 2013

That cover of stairway starts off slow, but is absolutely mindblowing by the end. He's simultaneously playing drums, bass, guitar, and singing vocals. How in God's name does he do that?
posted by percor at 10:45 AM on March 9, 2013

Previously. (Just wanted an excuse for people to see this again.)
posted by zerbinetta at 10:59 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

But no solo albums! Drives me crazy.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:14 AM on March 9, 2013

That Radiohead cover in the style of Tom Waits sounds like its from an Amoeba records in-store from the end of 2004 that I was at. I don't want to say that song "changed my life," but I can't remember anything else he played that day, hell I can't even remember other entire shows I went to that year, but I remember that song perfectly and talk about it often.

That song is a useful barometer. If I tell somebody about Jon Brion playing a cover of Radiohead's Creep in the style of Tom Waits and they know what all of that means, 1) they will like it and 2) we should be friends.
posted by dogwalker at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

But no solo albums! Drives me crazy.

I think Meaningless is still available at CD Baby.

And you should find that Grays record immediately if you don't already have it...
posted by mintcake! at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2013

Jon Brion can string together chords that make me teary almost immediately. Maybe it's that I associate it with eternal sunshine, which is to me one of the saddest movies ever, but that guy has a gift. And he makes it seem so effortless.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

After I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in the theater, I went home and downloaded the soundtrack, then listened to it late into the night. I kept listening to it obsessively for the next week...and then I couldn't listen to it anymore. It just makes me cry.
posted by limeonaire at 12:13 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

He did some of that in Synecdoche -- the track "Piano Two" is just brutal.
posted by spiderskull at 12:35 PM on March 9, 2013

If you're in LA, you should check out his performances at Largo.

Seconded. He can do this musical improv thing that is amazing, collecting requests from the audience, and pulling off the results with aplomb. It is just humbling to watch.
posted by ambrosia at 1:07 PM on March 9, 2013

If you're in LA, you should check out his performances at Largo.

There used to be a fansite called "fairfax-avenue: A Jon Brion Resource" (later "The Largoverse") that hosted a bunch of Jon Brion Largo concert bootlegs. They were of variable quality and no replacement for actually being there but a godsend for those of us unable to make it to LA. It seems a few of them have landed here.
posted by Start with Dessert at 6:05 PM on March 9, 2013

There was a great concert at the El Rey Theatre in 2010 with Chris Thile & Punch Bros with Jon Brion. I love the way Brion and Thile feed off each other and egg each other on to ever greater heights.

Jon Brion's "Happy With You"

Of Montreal's "Gronlandic Edit"
posted by Start with Dessert at 6:36 PM on March 9, 2013

I think Brion played a lot of the guitars on Spilt Milk, which is where I first heard of him.
posted by thelonius at 6:46 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

My favorite tune by him is the original theme song to VH1's behind the music (first 13 seconds of this video). So catchy but so fleeting.
posted by fizzix at 6:59 PM on March 9, 2013

So apparently Jon Brion hosted an extremely short-lived live music show on VH1. Here's the pilot episode in five parts (playlist link) but if you watch one link from this comment let it be this episode in full featuring Jon Brion, Elliot Smith, and Brad Mehldau playing Smith songs together ca. 2000.
posted by carsonb at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2013

Oh man, they get to a Kinks cover, do some Lennon, and even a Big Star track. *shivers*
posted by carsonb at 10:27 AM on March 21, 2013

he's worked with Fiona Apple

Still sorta pissed off about how almost all of Brion's work was scrapped from Extraordinary Machine BTW.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:28 PM on March 21, 2013

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