Boo! Halloween season continues at Nugget Island as we present our special YouTube playlist of non-stop Halloween goodness for the kiddos. Tune in via your smart TV, set-top box or old-fashioned laptop for classic clips from Disney, kindie music videos, and much more. Click here to get access to it on YouTube or watch below.
Whether you are someone who makes weekly visits to your local music store, a regular iTunes shopper or a torrent delinquent, there is one purchase I implore you to make this week. Not only is it for a great cause, but the music included is top-notch.
Released today, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti is a compilation album filled with marquis names in family music. Featuring both previously unreleased tracks as well as new songs recorded especially for this effort, ‘Many Hands’ is also the debut release on Bill Childs’ Spare the Rock Records. As the title suggests, all proceeds from this album will go to Haitian People’s Support Project, a non-profit working to help the people of Haiti, still devastated since the January 12, 2010 earthquake.
Dean Jones of family music sensation Dog on Fleas was one of the spearheads behind this project, and his band can also be found on this compilation. Other artists on board include Dan Zanes, Elizabeth Mitchell, They Might be Giants, Gustafer Yellowgold, Caspar Babypants, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. And that’s just a small sample!
If you live in one of the areas below, be sure to check out one of these family music star-studded CD release events.
• Sunday August, 15: Dog on Fleas, Grenadilla, Uncle Rock, Rosendale Theater, Rosendale, NY (Details)
• Friday, August 20: Elizabeth Mitchell & Family and Frances England, Mill Valley Library, Mill Valley, CA (free) (Details)
• Saturday, August 21: Dog on Fleas, Lunch Money, Randy Kaplan, Deedle Deedle Dees, Armory, Somerville, MA (Details & ticket link)
• Saturday, September 11, 11:00: Randy Kaplan, Johnny Bregar, and Recess Monkey, Multnomah Arts Center, Portland, OR, presented by A Child’s Time to Rock! (Tickets)
• Saturday, September 11: Deedle Deedle Dees, Gustafer Yellowgold, Dog on Fleas, Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY
• Sunday, September 26: Dan Zanes, Elizabeth Mitchell & Family, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Deedle Deedle Dees, Tony Vacca, Grenadilla, Pines Theater, Look Park, Northampton, MA. (Tickets)
The last time I got out the list format was when I pitched 5 Reasons Gustafer Yellowgold is the Coolest (or Hottest) Kids Concept. With my introduction to Clementown, I feel the need to passionately get on the soapbox once again and drive the point home about this amazingly talented and unabashedly hip music group.
Like many kids’ music projects, Clementown was brought to life when founding members and real-life couple Kate Lynch and Chris Beaty decided to stop complaining about kids’ music and make their own. Kate Lynch already had experience as a commercial vocalist, musician, dancer and creative movement teacher and Chris Beaty was an Academy Award winning composer. They had fallen in love with Calef Brown’s colorful and wholly offbeat book of poems and illustrations called Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, so they took their band name from his poem “Clementown.”
The Calef Brown tie-in was taken a step further when the band decided their first kid-centric project would be Polkabats and Octopus Slacks − The Music!. This 2009 release is comprised of 28 musical interpretations of the marvelously nonsensical poems and folk-art in Calef Brown’s ‘Polkabats’ book and its follow-up “Dutch Sneakers and Fleakeepers.”
Clementown’s first album has since gone on to find critical acclaim and a loyal following in their Minneapolis hometown and the kindie music market. And, Calef Brown himself is quite impressed. “I was just blown away,” said Brown in the Minneapolis’ Southwest Journal. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t expect that: having every song like a gem, so different from the next.”
You need to take a day trip to this weird and wonderful little town. Here are my Top 5 Reasons To Visit Clementown:
1. Genre-hopping madness
I have never heard a band, regardless of the target age demographic, skip around genres so much and do it so well. Clementown seamlessly switches its musical sound for each of the 28 songs on Polkabats and Octopus Slacks − The Music! to best represent each of Brown’s poems. Just a few examples include Blaxploitation-style soul, low-fi rock, call-and-response blues, buzzy-garage rock, sunny Brit-pop, beat-driven electro, cool jazz, carnival instrumentation and surf music. Their vocal styles and instrumentations faultlessly adapt to each genre making it a fun musical journey for adults and children alike.
2. A fitting homage to its source material
Calef Brown’s poetry books are truly one-of-kind experiences: a little bit Dr. Seuss, a little bit Shel Silverstien, but mostly his own original folk-art accompanied tales. In the hands of a lesser band, I can see his work being turned into cloying ditties with no appeal to anyone outside of a toddler demographic. But Clementown seem to truly understand Brown’s visions, and the music style they choose for each song perfectly aligns with the illustrations and words and feels spot-on. Like his actual poems, each song paints a little picture. Listen and you will hear stories of an octopus and his new bell-bottoms, a snowman who loves to dance, snails with a penchant for pudding, a surfer with a fear of water, a pirate who uses a carrot as a sword, a grandmother traveling the world with her magic guitar, and many more.
3. Produced for sophisticated tastes of adults and blossoming tastes of kids
As I hinted at above, this album’s production is not meant to appeal solely to the kiddies. Clementown’s production is of such high quality that adults are sure to get on board as well. The adult listener will recognize sounds from modern indie music, their college radio years, pop culture new and old, and some of their favorite current artists. Artists like Clementown may also help fine tune the musical ear of their young listeners, potentially creating a generation of kids who are less interested in factory-created pop.
4. A forwarding-thinking project
Clementown is already talking about another collaboration with Brown, and they are also hoping to take the general concept further. After noticing her younger daughter following along to the album while reading Brown’s book, Kate Lynch started to consider how the book/album combination could be used as a literacy project. Plans are in the works for a non-profit organization where the band can start an initiative using “the thriving medium of music to promote the dying medium of books.” Already, Maia has many of the poems/songs memorized, and is now following along with the words in the book as she listens to the CD. She’s definitely starting to do some word recognition, all because of this book/CD. If we can throw in our 2 cents, we see an iPad app here!
5. Insanely fun live shows!
If you check out the videos below, it is clear these guys put on a great show. Between guitar-rocking costumed grandmothers to a dancing funky snowman to backing screens featuring Brown’s images, Clementown puts on a multimedia experience that matches the fun of their album. And the album doesn’t lose anything live, despite the complex production of each song. Best of all, Clementown knows how to get the kids up and dancing.
I am quite surprised Clementown did not come across my radar earlier. I chanced upon them when hearing the Ladytron-esque adaptation of “Moon Reunion” on a kids’ music podcast and immediately sought out their album. I hope audiences and the press also continue to discover this progressive and exceptional project. And while I strongly recommend the Brown books, it is important to note that Clementown’s album does not have to be purchased with the book to enjoy it. These songs can exist alone as charming, unusual tunes kids will delight in.
Animated Video for “Ed”
Live Performance of “Funky Snowman”
Live Performance of “Bathtub Driver “
The art of the music video is generally lost on today’s youth. While the occasional video from OK Go or the like may attract some viral attention, today’s teen looks to MTV for reality programming like Jersey Shore or 16 and Pregnant. In general, unlike my generation, today’s millennials are not tuning in to see the world premiere of a video by a breakthrough artist to admire the new special effects, styles or dance moves. MTV has shifted so far away from its original purpose of featuring the work of new and favorite music artists that it recently dropped the “Music Television” caption.
Entrepreneurs Randall Green and Dan Gellert may be in position to change to change this dying art form.
These two gentlemen realized their two preschool-aged girls were absolutely in love with music. However, there was no way these dads were going to allow themselves to listen to irritating kids’ tunes. So, tapping into the growing kindie scene, they decided to launch their own online music video and radio station for kids, jitterbug.tv.
Jitterbug.tv is a one-stop destination for independent children’s musicians to share their music videos and songs, and for parents to introduce quality music to their kids. The sites offers both streaming videos and songs, all congregated in one location to avoid endless YouTube and web radio surfing.
One thing that amazed me when surfing through the videos on this site was the imagination and work put into the music videos. From the candy-colored world of The Jimmies videos, to Gustafer Yellowgold’s original animated pieces to the low budget-and-endearing Recess Monkey shorts, music videos have become an essential part of the kindie scene. As the scene itself grows, and music videos get more viewings, jitterbug may be a key contributor to the rebirth of the format as well as the growing kindie music genre as a whole.
Co-founder Dan Gellert, also a Grammy award winner and music industry veteran, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Check out his Nugget Island interview below.
Nugget Island: What has been the general reaction from the artist community?
Dan Gellert: Most artists have been enthusiastic to get involved with jitterbug. Many artists contact us to get posted. I think they know the audience is totally focused on kids’ music, so it’s a good place to show your videos and music. And we are all for promoting great artists.
N.I.: Were you a big music video fan as a youth?
D.G.: I was not a big music video fan actually. I’ve always appreciated a well-crafted song, whether it be a pop production or a loose folky song – if it is well put together, I pay attention. I think a video can enhance a song, especially today when video is integrated in our online life so much. I’ve noticed toddlers love the music videos but given the right context, they really pay attention to songs with no videos also.
N.I.: How have your daughters reacted to this site?
D.G.: My daughter asks for jitterbug by name – and that is the goal, for jitterbug to enter the fabric of toddlers parents’ lives and be the starting place to find fun music and videos.
N.I.: Looking at the music industry, are there any business models that you respect or admire?
D.G.: I think the business model of offering part of a service for free and having a premium service that people pay for is a good model.
N.I.: What advice would you give to a family music artist trying to make a name for themselves in the industry?
D.G.: First, write music that is honest and appeals to parents and kids. Don’t try too hard to make it “kid friendly”; the kids comprehend more than we know. If you are serious about getting into this niche, there are many internet tools to help you market to your audience, distribute your music, gather fans…. a good starting point for the Do It Yourself artist is here: http://www.topspinmedia.com/
N.I.:Where do you see the kindie scene going in the next few years?
D.G.: My crystal ball tells me the Kindie music niche is going to keep growing and more artists will start making a living at it. I think the production quality will become better and more “venues” will pop up to accommodate all those enthusiastic toddlers with parents.
N.I.: Any future plans for jitterbug you are comfortable sharing?
D.G.: Jitterbug is going into phase 2, which will be rolling out more features on the website, more fan engagement and interacting with mobile devices as well as helping more artists promote themselves.
Check out jitterbug now!
This past Sunday, we headed down to Cambridge to see one of our favorite kindie sensations, Gustafer Yellowgold, aka Morgan Taylor. Playing at the renowned (but cramped) Passim Folk Music and Cultural Center, Taylor brought along a few band members this time for a spirited, kid-appropriate 45-minute show that pleased the hardcore fans and kept smiles on the faces of newbies as well. (Check out my previous post for an intro to the Gustafer project.)
Maia is a seasoned concert-goer at 3-years-old − this was her fourth concert and her second time seeing Gustafer perform live. So, we all knew what to expect going into it, and were eagerly awaiting the show. The format remained the same as that of last year’s show, but that’s not a complaint. In between songs, Taylor tells background stories about the alien from the sun, adding to the growing Gustafer mythology. Here, Taylor brings life to the show with off-the-cuff quips that clearly display the comedic talents of this artist ever-so-present in his songwriting as well. The song performances are accompanied by the animated musical segments from the DVDs, which are projected behind him. To us, they are familiar and wonderful to revisit as we hear the accompanying songs live. To others in the audience who may be less Gustafer-obsessed, the visuals and printed lyrics offer an added engagement in the performance.
The show at Passim was just as brilliant as we expected. There is always something magical about finding a talented artist you love that hasn’t hit the mainstream conscience and then finally being surrounded by other fans. And for audience members who came to the show as casual fans or as Passim members, Taylor wisely amped up audience interaction from his last New England visit making sure everyone felt the ‘Mellow Fever’. Gustafer Yellowgold is also an act that you can rightly claim sounds just as good live, and the addition of backup singers, drums and horns only enhanced this. And, on a more personal note, some of our favorite tunes like “Butter Pond Lake,” “New Blue Star” and “Rocket Shoes” were brought out for the event, making it all the more celebratory.
At one point I remember looking at my wife’s face and realizing she was swept up in the sounds as much as, if not more than, my daughter was. If a kindie rocker can elicit that reaction in an adult audience member, then you know you are in the hands of a true talent.
Check out a video of the event below. (Sound quality: not so great) And, be sure to visit the official website.