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.
Listen To: “The Grand Scream of Things” by Andy Z
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.
Go & Do: PhilharMONSTER! @ The Peter Norton Symphony Space in NYC
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).
Read: “Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness” by Calef Brown
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.
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!
- The Jimmies
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.
Mike Whitla – Dinostory: The Ultimate Dinosaur Rock Opera: Have a dinosaur lover in your family? Keep them entertained and engaged with what is sure to be the one-and-only dino rock opera.
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.
- Alastair Moock
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.
- Charlie Hope
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.
I make no secret of my love for a good drum machine. I’m a huge fan of hip-hop and electronic beats. And though I have never pushed them on Maia, there is something about the thump of a bass that seems to get her going. Fortunately, family music has many kid-appropriate artists that fit this genre.
That being said, I also thoroughly enjoy unplugging at times. And what better way to unplug then with some good ‘ole guitar-strumming, roots-flavored music? The family music genre definitely has a great history of artists making roots music, including the venerable Woody Guthrie. Fortunately, for those who have worn out their Guthrie, Pete Seeger or Ella Jenkins records, there seems to be a reemergence of new artists making rootsy, twangy, folksy, fiddle-filled tunes for a family audience. Three recent albums sent to me for review laid proof to this growing trend.These artists are all talented, seasoned players with experience making music for adults and children. Read on for a rundown of just a few of the albums bringing music back to its roots.
American string band Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem have already created three albums for adults, but have just released their first family effort, Ranky Tanky. Featuring 17 covers, the band selected a diverse group of songs from 100 years of American music including artists like Nat King Cole (“Kee-Mo, Ky-Mo”), Tom Petty (“Wildflowers”), Sheb Wooley (“Purple People Eater”) and Cat Stevens (“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”).
My Take: This album was another delight to add to our growing kindie-rock collection. The band’s seasoned experience in the adult market shows in this celebratory and beautiful patchwork of an album. I was so excited to share their vigorous, twangy version of “The Green Grass Grows All Around” with Maia, a classic tune from my own childhood. I would never have thought of a kids’ album with the beautiful, melancholic “Wildflowers” on it, but Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem take it, make it their own and put it in a whole new context. And I can see why “If You Want To Sing Out” is getting Kids Place Live support, a great album intro track and a song that is by no means for kiddie ears only.
Earthworm Ensemble is a spin-off of alt-Americana band I See Hawks in L.A. Their self-titled album, released last February, mostly follows the folk, rock and fiddle sound of their adult tunes with some New Orleans funk, hip-hip and lo-fi rock mixed in. Earthworm Ensemble’s original songs have a subtle “green” focus, exploring a child’s viewpoint of nature and the universe while mixing in messages about topics like healthy eating.
My Take: Earthworm Ensemble is another distinctive effort, with artists who create something completely different for kids. The songs are each unique pictures, bringing life to gems like American-style story song “Traveling Train,” bluegrass science lesson “That’s What the Earthworms For,” and the jugband-style celebration of “Corn.” It’s hard to not love an effort like this, full of original and engaging songs with positive messages, imaginative musicians and some stylistic-shifts sure to please differing tastes.
Alastair Moock is no newbie to the music scene, already releasing 5 albums for adults, winning numerous songwriting awards and becoming one of Boston’s hometown musical heroes. A Cow Says Moock is his first album for kids, despite years of performing for the pint-sized set. Featuring original tunes as well as covers from music idols like Woody Guthrie, ‘A Cow’ is full of high-energy rootsy folk rock, a sound his adult fans will be used to.
A Cow Says Moock
My Take: Moock has an inimitable sound, based solely on his gravely voice. While some performers seem to only bring out the sugary sweet voice for their kid rock, Moock rocks his voice with pride and has the lively, worthy songs to back it up. The album starts with a roar, or a moo, right away with “A Cow Says Moo,” a folk tune that I imagine is quite the hit at his many live events. “Two Mommies” is also a highlight, a great way to make children aware of the many types of families in this world. Moock is also inspired by his own twin daughters in the music and movement song “Two Little Babies (Dance Around)” and sibling celebration tune “Twins Are Twice As Fun.” It is excellent to see a Boston-based artist making waves in the family music scene, and pushing out a quality album. Look out Seattle!
Have a “new-roots” kindie album you love? Comment below!