Ready to refresh your family playlists? Here are some albums sent to us for review that we have been listening to on the road, during dinner and at our mandatory family dance parties.
In the Twang of Thangs
Boxtop Jenkins brings in some marquee names and a mix of bluegrass, country, rock and folk for their excellent debut release, You’re Happier When You’re Happy. “Wag More” takes the now-classic bumper sticker and turns it into a bluegrass jam with an assist from the Indigo Girls. Boxtop also likes to get their rockabilly on with the dental health lesson “The Crocodile (Wouldn’t Brush His Teeth)” and Halloween tunes “Getting Down on Halloween” and “Rattlin’ Rattlin’ Bones.”
Full of down-home nonsensical tunes (and I mean that in the best way possible), the Coloma, Michigan-based Deep Fried Pickle Project uses harmonicas, banjos and even kazoos on Green and Bumpy to create a unique Americana kindie style while singing about pickle juice, gross “boogers” and the dangers of jumping over a fence at a zoo.
New York-based Astrograss has been making “newgrass” music since 2003, creating twangy tunes for both adults and kids. Their newest family album, The Colored Pencil Factory, features original tunes like the beautiful title track and the manic “Freak Out” as well as foot-stomping classic takes on standards like “Shortenin’ Bread.”
Kindie Goes Pop
True to their name, The Harmonica Pocket’sApple Appleis filled with acoustic, harmonica-filled eco-pop songs that range from the silly-with-a message “Diaper Man” to the educational “I’m Gonna Count” to the goofy Caspar Babypants-cameo tune “Monkey Love.” Added bonus: all of the songs are produced in a solar-powered studio.
Shira from Shira & Friends is known for her music and movement classes held throughout New York City. Her talent for getting kids to get up and move is clear in her 5-track EP, When You’re a Kid. This debut album is full of energetic and interactive kid’s tunes perfect for music and movements parties, playdates and playspaces. Musical proof that Laurie Berkner is not the only game in town!
For parents who have been forced to retire their Doc Martins and mohawks, Kepi Ghoulie’sKepi for Kids is your go-to album. Also known as the frontman for cult band The Groovie Ghoulies, his punk rock rock vocals fit surprisingly well over acoustic rock songs. Kepi’s album takes place in the fictional world of Kepiland and features infectious dance-along songs like “Spazz Out”, tender lullabies like “Moonbeam” and the anthem-for-all “A Little Bit Weird.”
AlthoughKinderAngst is represented by a team of fictional puppet characters from “Alphabet City,” the album was actually created by the multi-talented Palmyra Delran and Rachelle Garnie. Whether or not puppet characters are your thing, KinderAngst will win you over with its genre-hopping, Debbie Harry cameo, punk rock attitude and complete lack of filler tracks.
Indie Rockers In The House
Big Bang Boomhas a jam band and indie rock sound that will appeal to college radio lovers of yore – and their kids, too. Because I Said So is infused with sun-soaked melodies and kid-friendly topics like long car rides, learning to ride a bike and loving your hippie mom. Big Bang Boom also features the recognizable vocals of Chuck Folds – younger brother and sound-a-like of Ben Folds.
After the success of his single “I Think I’m a Bunny,” Todd McHatton dedicates a whole album to his purple monster in Todd McHatton Presents Marvy Monstone’s Mysterious Fun Time Dream Band. While that means less of Todd’s indie rock vocals for us parents, no Marvy is enough Marvy for the kiddos. Expect them to delight in tunes like the story-song “The Plan with The Crystal & The Bear” and the sing-along-ready ”Here’s The Thing” – all over the sound of Todd’s well-crafted piano pop.
LA-based Ozomatli have garnered a dedicated following over the past 17 years with their bilingual mash up of rap, electronica, rock, hip-hop, meringue and more. Finding a steady home on cutting edge adult stations like KCRW, Ozomatli are ready to do the same on children’s radio. OzoKidz features the same genre mashups as their adult albums, but grown-up issues like gang violence and Hurricane Katrina are pushed aside to celebrate kid-friendly topics like birthdays, skateboards and balloons. Our current favorite is “Moose on the Loose,” a feverish dance number on par with any Top 40 club-banger out there. “Sun and Moon” is a synthy educational lesson that could have been pulled straight from Yo Gabba Gabba. This is sure to go down as classic children’s music, and inspire skeptical listeners to approach the genre.
Elska’sMiddle of Nowherealbum is a refreshing and groundbreaking new concept in family music. Elska is a fictional character created by singer/actress Shelley Wollert and producer Allen Farmelo. “Elska” lives on an Artic Island with friends like writer Winter Bear, sidekick Goobler, and engineer creature The Nunni. It is too easy to refer to Elska as Bjork-for-kids, with her minimalistic blips and glitches sound, but Shelley and Allen are also bringing the characters to life as a multimedia project. This includes live shows and a series of live action/animated music videos shot in Iceland. Check out Elska’s music video below and happy listening!
It’s the season of the witch, and we have been playing our Halloween music and watching our Halloween films since mid-September. We have already rolled out our yearly music playlist, and are ready to follow up with some more ways to get your kid-friendly scares on this Halloween.
Award-winning kids’ musician Andy Z has just released an ambitious musical audio play for kids 8-12 called “The Grand Scream of Things.” The 66-minute music adventure takes listeners on a Halloween day journey with protagonist Andy, his dog Reggie, his buddy Danger Dude and Pleadia, a teenage alien and potential romantic interest for Andie. Interspersed through this “old time radio show” style adventure are stand-alone songs that span the punk, hip-hop, pop and hip-hop genre. Guest kid musicians like Paula Messner (Candy Band) and RhymeZwell show up while production is handled by Grammy-nominated producer Tor Hyams
Bonus Mention: Children’s musician David Tobocman is offering a free Halloween song download called “Spooky Stuff.” This tune was written by David’s 1st grade daughter Zoe.
We are long-time fans of Night & Day Studios’ Peekaboo brand of apps. Each release brings unique artwork and new tricks to their trademark line of apps featuring animals and objects popping out and surprising toddlers and babies. For Halloween, Night & Day enlists the talent of Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator, Ed Emberley (“Go Away, Big Green Monster!”) to create kid-safe interpretations of Halloween mainstays like witches, werewolves, bats and ghosts. In “Peekaboo Trick or Treat,” little ones tap on the colorful “haunted house” and are greeted by a rotating cast of 14 characters with silly sound effects. A simple app with inspired illustrations that allows even the youngest ones to celebrate the season without getting too scared.
The Worst Witch introduced the young, fledgling witch/wizard-in-the-making story years before Harry Potter entered pop culture history books. Based on the book series of the same name, this made-for-TV production focuses on central character Mildred Hubble as she tries to find her way at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Along the way she deals with bullies, botched spells, evil witches and a meeting with the honored Grand Wizard. While the special effects are slightly dated, the movie’s central themes are ageless, as Mildred overcomes obstacles both realistic and supernatural to become the school’s superstar student. Adult viewers: come for the retro charm, stay for the positive message, and come back again for Tim Curry’s hammy performance as The Grand Wizard and his musical number “Anything Can Happen on Halloween.”
Bonus Mention: Scholastic Storybook Treasures: A Very Brave Witch…and more Halloween Stories. Eight classic kid’s books are brought to life in this Halloween-themed edition of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series. For parents who prefer a mellower, literary approach to television viewing, this a great option. Most of the stories in this DVD compilation are filmed books with simple camera pans, celebrity narration and optional onscreen read-along.
Lucky NYC-ers can go to this special one-off Halloween show on Sun, Oct 28 at 4 pm. The young musicians of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York’s Carnegie Hill Orchestra (ages 8 to 12) and ISO Symphony (ages 12 to 19) will perform horror-themed orchestral classics to get into the spirit of the season. All players will be dressed for the holiday, with a special Ghost Conductor.
Bonus Mention: Be sure to check out musician Alastair Moock’s “Slightly Scary Spectacular” concerts at Jammin Java (Saturday, October 27, 10:30 am) and 92Y Tribeca NY (Sunday, October 28, 11 am).
Artist/poet Calef Brown could be described as a modern-day Dr Seuss, with an edgy folk-art touch. He has even inspired an album based on his previous books. “Hallowilloween” features Calef’s trademark ridiculous rhymes, this time themed around his own brand of monsters. Meet the baseball “Vumpire,” shunken head Duncan, the brain-eating “Oompachupa Loompacabra” and the cowgirl “Witches of Texas.” Age appropriately morbid, Calef Brown’s poems are humorous enough to circumnavigate any nasty nightmares.
Bonus Mention: “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle” by Charles Gilman. A novel for tweens that references the king of horror and “speculative fiction.” Yes please! “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School” tells the story of twelve-year-old Robert Arthur as he navigates his way through a middle school filled with mysterious passages, Lovecraftian beasts, and teachers that are never who they appear to be.
Meanwhile, for those who want to celebrate the season of Fall – with or without Halloween – I wanted to call out a free download. Kindie music superstar Joanie Leeds has written a new song called “Falling” – in celebration of the season – and she is giving it away as a free download here.
It’s easy to hate on Kidz Bop. Tweenage kids singing weeks-old pop songs that you, a self-professed hipster parent, already shrugged off as frivolous top 40 anyway. Perhaps, like me, you have vowed to raise your kids on a steady diet of kindie music only. “It’s just Gustafer Yellowgold, Lucky Diaz, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo for my kiddos, please.” But then something happens: your kids go to school, camp, playdates. They have their little meetings on the monkey-bars. Before you know it, they are asking about Starships, Tik Toks and Gaga.
When I first discovered my 6-year-old’s interest in a song that included the words “higher than a motherf*cker,” I knew my simple days of kindie-rocking were behind me. Even the official radio version only includes a slight drop of the offending word. I pictured the question in my head “what does a higher than a mother mean?” What’s a dad to?
Enter Kidz Bop. Kidz Bop has become my Spotify go-to for songs I would be too horrified to ever enter the eardrums of my 6-year-old child. Now, Niki Minaj is not “higher than a motherf_cker.” Nope. Now, “We’re Kidz Bop and we’re taking over!” Lady Gaga is no longer “out in the club and I’m sippin that bubb.” Now, the Kidz Bop gang is “out in the club and I’m eating that grub.” And Ke$ha’s love for the booze in “Tik Tok” is fully rehabbed, with no Jack Daniels or beer references.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids’ Spotify playlist does not soley consist of Kidzbop 1-22 as well as the numerous special editions (Monster Ballads!) . But as my child gets older, and more pop-culture savvy, Razor & Tie’s music series certainly has its place.
Get your iPod, laptop, and credit card out, it’s time to refresh that music library. Your fall playlist is played out, and you need some new tunes to take you in to 2012. Below is a musical buffet of albums to check out, with several sure to fit your musical pallet.
The Jimmies – Practically Ridiculous: It’s here! After a (painful) 4 year wait, Ashley Albert & co have baked up a dozen new tasty tunes to memorize, chuckle at and share with friends. Bring on the high-concept music videos!
Charlie Hope – Songs, Stories and Friends: Let’s Go Play!: Sail away on the summer breeze of Charlie’s beautiful and airy vocals. Filled with her own original tunes and public domain classics, Charlie’s music makes the coldest day a summer holiday.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – Oh Lucky Day!: Out of nowhere, Lucky and the fam burst onto the scene with their bar-raising intro E.P. of pop-rock tunes. As we hoped, the E.P. was just an appetizer for this full length release of jangly kid tunes for hipsters and homemakers alike.
Rabbit! – Go For It!: Sunshiny, feel-good indie pop that is ready for its close-up, from a Floridian crew that proudly takes it inspiration from the “bubblegum scene of the late 1960′s.” Another instant favorite in our house, and bound for kindie glory.
Dan Zanes – Little Nut Tree: Before I take that first listen to the latest Dan Zanes’ album, I always wonder what he will do to top himself. This time, the Grammy award winning singer mixes his truly ageless Americana sound with headliner guests like Sharon Jones, Joan Osborne and Andrew Bird.
Rocknoceros – Colonel Purple Turtle: Making kindie music before “kindie” entered the lexicon, Rocknoceros’ new effort is a CD/book concept album that takes place in the animal-filled, cleverly-crafted world of Soggy Bog.
Ben Rudnick & Friends – Live in Lexington : Under the Copper Beech: Children’s music staple Rudnick & Friends show they can make it happen outside the studio with a live, eclectic mix of bluegrass, calypso, folk and rock.
Biscuit Brothers – Get Up & Go: If you are one of the lucky PBS markets that carry the Biscuit Brothers, you are familiar with this music-filled show. We have been enjoying their YouTube video clips for years, and can now sing along to some of the greatest Cajun, rock, country, polka, jazz, swing, and a capella tunes heard on the Emmy-Award winning show.
Recess Music’s UR Some 1 and Big Bully compilations: Great compilations with great messages. On UR Some 1, artists like Peter Himmelman share the message of self-confidence while Big Bully has artists like The Hipwaders and Renee & Jeremy spreading the message of being generous and kind.
Mr. Leebot – Erratic Schematic: Plug it in and turn up the kindietronica, with Mr. Leebot’s inimitable new wave sound.
Hope Harris – Cousins Jamboree: With Dan Zanes’ production talent behind it, you know it will be a treat for the ears. If you are looking for a little twang and new, original tunes, you can’t go wrong with Hope’s first kindie rock release.
Doctor Noize – The Ballad of Phineas McBoof: For the kindie rocker who wants more than just the music, Doctor Noize (aka Cory Cullinan) has created a transmedia property around ‘Phineas McBoof.’ The colorful character creations of his music are brought to life on the page, kicking off a new kid’s property to watch out for.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
My Name is Handel – The Story of Water Music: Cool down time in the minivan? Let the London Philharmonic Orchestra introduce your kids to German composer Handel with an educational intro to his life and his instruments.
Beethoven’s Wig – Sing Along Piano Classics: Another way to intro kids to classical music? Add some silly lyrics to them. Richard Perlmutter has nailed this formula, and attacks piano classics on his fifth release of remade masterpieces.
In The Nick of Time – Making Silly Faces: The third release from Nick Deysher’s In the Nick of Time act brings a high-energy mix of genre-hopping with songs tackling “hot topics” like manners and healthy-eating.
Mister G – Bugs: Teacher/ASCAP-Award-winner/former indie rocker Ben Gundersheimer is back with another round of catchy kindie pop-rock tunes that should continue to build his loyal all-age following.
Alastair Moock – These Are My Friends: Boston-bred Moock is back with another rootsy family album, this time bringing along some very special guests like Rani Arbo and Lori McKenna. Moock’s last album was track-by-track greatness, and this album continues his streak with folk-rock covers (“Mail Myself to You”) and his own new creations (“Born To Dance”).
The Hipwaders – The Golden State: Band leader Tito Uquillas and the gang keep churning out delightful power-pop for the whole family, with their latest a tribute to the sunshine sound of California.
Peter Alsop – Grow it At Home: Peter is aiming squarely at the kids with this award-winning album of goofy-good, green-themed tunes.
Rollie Polie Guacamole – Time for Hummus: Brooklyn-based Rollie Polie Guacamole will bring you back to your favorite summer jam band festival, but with the kid-safe lyrics and appropriate substances.
Hullabaloo – Road Trip: Made for the mini-van, this folk-rock duo’s latest release is full of clever songs about the pain and pleasure of family road trips. Take the journey with high-energy, twangy tunes like “Rolling Down That Road,” “Are We There Yet?” and “Good To Be Back Home.”
Chip Taylor & The Grandkids – Golden Kids Rules: With a pedigree that includes crafting hits like “Angel of the Morning,” this gravely-voiced musician is a welcome addition to the family music scene. Academy Award-winning brother Jon Voight graces the liner notes, while his three grandchildren duet on songs like the gentle title track.
Jane Roman Pitt – Midnight Lullaby: Instead of buying another one of those chimey lullaby albums, consider Jane Roman Pitt. This mother and grandmother does her own soothing take on contemporary tunes by artist like including Wilco, Sade, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Josh Ritter.
Laura Doherty – Shining Like a Star: If you love the breezy sound of female singer/songwriters, Laura Doherty delivers sweet and interactive acoustic tunes for the kiddos.
Todd McHatton – Galactic Champions of Joy: We described Todd’s last album as “one of those rare releases that you can play from start to finish.” Once again, he delivers. This album is hard for parents to tire of, full of college radio-style rock for the whole family. Added bonus: a song called “I Think I’m A Bunny.”
David Rees – I Believe in Pasta: David Rees has a progressive new idea in the kindie space: album merged with iPad app. Beyond being an innovative idea, this experienced composer has also created a charming bunch of pasta-themed tunes for kids.
Jason Riley – Funky Folk: If you are yet to explore instrumental music with your kids, here is an interesting way to start. Riley takes on well-known songs like “Camptown Races” in genres like jazz, blues, funk and, when the album really shines, bluegrass.
The Que Pastas – Debut E.P.: If you have a penchant for the weird (as I do), you will love the debut (free) EP from this Denver duo. Quirky and catchy, this is not your average kindie band, and I look forward to seeing what batch of original recipes the ‘Pastas’ cook up next.