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!
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.
Although I am still in denial, the dreaded F word is upon us. I know some celebrate the season of Fall, but give me hot sweltering weather any day. (Though I do LIKE “I Will Go Slightly Out of My Way To Step On A Crunchy-Looking Leaf” on Facebook. ) Weather preferences aside, in anticipation of the new season, let’s do an iPod refresh and check out some new options for your library.
Lucky Diaz – Luckiest Adventure
After checking out the amazing album artwork for Lucky Diaz’s family music EP, Luckiest Adventure, I knew I was in for an original project. Lucky Diaz delivers an excellent 5-track contribution to the family music scene, full of finely-crafted acoustic pop tunes. Whether bringing a fresh take on a tired standard, “This Old Man,” or introducing his own originals like “Fire Fighter Girl,” Diaz is a promising new artist on the scene.
Todd McHatton – Sundays at the Rocket Park
Todd McHatton’s Christmas E.P. put him on our radar last year. His new full length release further showcases his sunshiney pop-rock sound. Full of harmonious and quirky songs about animals, superheroes and a guy who enjoys eating clothes, McHatton’s latest is one of those rare releases that you can play from start to finish without hitting the skip button.
The Rattles – Rattle On
Sure, a band fronted by cartoon characters can be gimmicky. But what if the band made music that was actually interesting? Gorillaz for kids, perhaps? Fronted by cartoon animals Gus, Kitty, Hal and Sal, The Rattles put cartoon bands like The Archies to shame. Think quality kindie pop music represented by a kid-friendly, TV pilot-ready quartet.
Dream Jam Band – Leave it in the Soup
I will admit, the album cover had me worried that I was about to hear some Aqua-style Euro Pop. I was quite wrong. The Dream Jam Band is actually four music teachers making high-energy music for kids that spans multiple genres from surf rock to bluegrass to classical. Their Children’s Music Award and Sirius chart success is well-deserved as they know their audience well and make interactive, high-energy music that is sure to satisfy.
The Okee Dokee Brothers – Take It Outside
I love any band that expands both my music horizons and my daughter’s at the same time. Before kindie music entered our household, bluegrass was a dirty word. But bands like The Okee Dokee Brothers have changed that. Take It Outside is the latest effort from this Twin Cities duo, mixing a twangy sound with bits of rock, funk, pop and country. Bringing their sense of humor and high energy to each song, The Okee Dokee dudes deserve all the praise this album has received. The Bazillions – Rock-n-Roll Recess
Speaking of the Twin Cities, The Bazillions is another act making waves in this city and beyond. While their pop-rock sound is reminiscent of Justin Roberts, their vocals are their own and finely tuned thanks to their work with their own indie-rock band, The Humbugs. This band, created by parents/educators/singer-songwriters Adam and Kristin Marshall, knows how to write a memorable, catchy tune that will stand out in the iPod mix.
The Not-Its – Time Out to Rock
Yes! Our beloved Seattle kindie rock group is back again. Fronted by 90’s indie pop it-girl Sarah Shannon, The Not-Its matches their cool clothes and images with a kindie rock sound widely lauded by fans. This time they are rocking even harder with stand out tracks like “Welcome to Our School” and title track “Time Out to Rock.”
Monkey Monkey Music with Meredith LeVande – What Are the Odds?
Meredith brings on music and movement in this album that is pure preschool gold. This is the album to bring to your child’s preschool teacher who is stuck playing that factory-bred toddler tune album. Instead, share Meredith’s sweet voice and original mix of acoustic, funk and pop-style tunes. Or, enjoy the album at home and have fun interacting with each song or enjoying Meredith’s wordplay.
The Sweet Colleens – The Monkey Dance
Mixing up Americana, rock, Celtic and even some Caribbean, The Sweet Colleens are clearly a seasoned bunch of musicians, fronted by a vocalist who stands out from the kindie rock pack. With classic-rock vocals, he adds something extra to kid-ready songs about poopy diapers, monkeys, and road trips. The Sweet Colleens even do a standout take of Woodie Guthrie’s classic “Who’s My Pretty Baby.”
Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band – Play
Swedberg created Play to encourage families to pick up and play the ukulele. But even if you are not a musically-inclined family, Play is still pure listening pleasure. A stripped down, refreshing album full of standard tunes, Swedberg has timeless, inimitable vocals. In between all the kindie rocking, it is nice to sit back, relax and hear some top-notch ukulele playing from a talent who has been strumming away since the ripe age of five.
Bill Harley – The Best Candy in the Whole World
The godfather of children’s music has a new album out this week. On his latest release, Harley’s trademark narrative-filled, folksy tunes are interspersed with his captive storytelling. Harley has been entertaining kids for years with his imaginative songs and stories, and his new album won’t disappoint all the listeners in the minivan.