Shop Vac from Jarret Heather on Vimeo.

Jonathan Coulton is nothing if not a hero for the age of Internet music. The Brooklyn-based troubadour inspires worldwide adoration from fans, not least in the form of music videos made spontaneously for his songs. “Shop Vac” by Jarrett Heather is easily one of the cleverest music videos put out this year, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with professional, higher-budget, commissioned videos. (And in a year full of clever gimmicks, that’s saying a lot.) It also does more than just show off visual flash: it’s got some actual wit.

More info from the creator:

A kinetic typography music video for Jonathan Coulton’s Shop Vac. Created using After Effects, Toon Boom Animate, Illustrator, Photoshop and Premiere.

As such, I almost put it under the “motion” heading, but for one important cameo: in the best appearance by music notation in a music video in recent memory, there’s a kick-a** notation “solo” in the middle. And yes, music notation is still damned sexy after all these centuries.

Jarret says he made that flourish with LilyPond, the brilliant, fully open-source notation engraving standard about which I raved early this year.

Not that it matters. I’d take any excuse to show this video, or watch it again. And remember, comment trolls, say what you like – I’ll just turn on my Shop-Vac.

Thanks, Wheat Williams, for the tip!

  • That's a big heap of praise!  Thank you very much for appreciating all the work that went into this project.

  • Jarrett, you're killing me, man! All that pretty notation animation and the timing was like a frame or two off! (sorry, I'm way too much of a perfectionist). Slick animation & design overall though 😀

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jeremy: That's probably just the Flash player. 😉

  • that was just incredibly well done. must have taken forever.

  • "the best appearance by music notation in a music video in recent memory"
    Well that's a kick in the teeth.

    Anyways, very stylish and witty video here;  I enjoyed it, thanks for sharing.

  • Very VERY nicely done!

  • Warmed my heart

  • @Peter: yeah, on second thought I find it hard to believe that since he spent so much time finessing the rest of it that those notes would have gone untweaked

  • Pretty slick and entertaining video. There are so many lazy "typography" music videos floating around, but this one exhibits incredible attention to detail.

    BTW, this article's heading says "Lilypad" instead of "Lilypond."

  • danny s

    heh, yeah i thought it was referring to the lilypad electronics device, wondered what that had to do with the video.

    great vid, i do wish there was more visual progression in the repeated sections though (like the person upstairs was drinking and getting more desperate and agitated at the neglect and isolation, the box of tissues becoming empty due to all the crying, the martini glasses multiplying and becoming empty liquor bottles, and the dude in the basement was hiding out more deliberately, secretly developing a "relationship" with the shop vac).  really — put some more effort into it next time, would ya? 🙂

  • Peter Kirn

    Heh, yeah, sorry for again screwing up Lilypad versus Lilypond. Lilypad would make more sense, too. Notation? Pad? Get it?

  • superbeaugosse

    Incredible !! You rock !

  • I especially love that Lilydroid part

  • Random Chance

    Great work! I admire the work and skill that goes into this sort of production.

    I did not like some of the fonts selected or the combinations of different fonts that did not really go together all that well. But I'm no expert, just someone who sometimes is very picky about his typography.

  • Very clever – – especially the send-ups of the branding (also, check out on for a more sobering view of corporate messaging : )

    This reminds me of that short film from about 2000 where a husband rushes his wife in labor to the hospital in NYC in a cab, and EVERYTHING is typography . . . sorry, don't know the guy's name. (Anyone know the one I'm talking about?)

    OK, animation of notation is perfectly fine here (and analog's link is cool, too), but what if someone created an application that generated notation in real time for musicians to play? Neat, huh? Oh, wait, I already did that, to a collective yawn: ( . 

  • bob

    Troll here. The style of the video is very commercial especially with that type music…. Ewww.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Random Chance: Actually, almost all of that typography is a direct reference to particular branding, so it's possible what you're responding to is the design choices made by the *original companies being parodied*.

    @bob: It's a parody. You missed the point.

  • bob

    @Kirn:  oh, so that's why It's cool.

  • Damon


  • mdk

    its just a pleated lemon rip off

  • ^^ Don't click that link.  Unfunny wanna-be viral rubbish.

    Anyways, the best example of a music video in this vein that I know of is Justice's DVNO music video (
    One of my favorite music videos ever, actually.

  • Pleated Lemon

    @analog – come on man. we're just trying to break thru to the big time.  we need your support. I want to buy a Honda Jazz.

  • Ghondy

    Man… Justice are such embarrassing pricks.

  • TJ

    Great video – subtle funny lyrics … can't help thinking Coulton really ought to flip Paul Westerberg a couple bucks now and then ….