Last Halloween, we got into the spirit early with the Nugget Island Family Halloween Hootenanny playlist for Spotify. Filled with classic family-safe scare-tracks and classic kindie treats, this playlist is a must for Halloween lovers. Add it to your Spotify playlists now to hear classic Halloween-loving musicians like John Zacherle, The Moon-Rays, Shiny Toy Guns, Spike Jones and Voltaire. Of course, no family Halloween is complete without some kindie superstars, so we’ve invited artists like Doctor Noize, The Hipwaders, Justin Roberts, Rebecca Frezza & Big Truck, Recess Monkey, Roger Day, Trout Fishing in America and more to this All Hallow’s Eve shindig.
A Free Treat
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 been a while since I shared my music picks and it’s time to play catch-up with a rundown of kids’ music on my Island radar. Get out your music player and get ready to do some Spring cleaning!
Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights – What A Zoo: We loved Joanie’s last album, so when she added animal-themed songs, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and a cover of “Froggie Went a Courtin,” we knew we were in for more of her trademark top-notch pop. We weren’t disappointed!
Moona Luna – Piñata Party: New York-based songwriter Sandra Velasquez’s bilingual kids’ project is sure to be part of our backyard summer soundtrack. This non-stop Latin-flavored album even features a cameo from Dan Zanes.
Putumayo Kids - Acoustic Dreamland: Yet another quality compilation from the Putumayo brand, this one under their “Dreamland” genre. Full of soothing acoustic lullabies from singer-songwriters both kindie (Frances England) and classic (Lucy Kaplansky), this one works for babies, kids and even restless adults.
Daddy A Go Go – Grandkid Rock: Satisfy your classic rock and kindie rock pallet with Daddy A Go Go’s all-ages friendly release. Sure, references to Backstreet Boys may be slightly outdated, but this is called Grandkid Rock after all.
Brady Rymer - Love Me For Who I Am: Brady’s latest album was made with the goal of creating a “deeper understanding and appreciation of children with autism and other related conditions.” A wonderful project idea filled with sweet and sophisticated pop/rock tunes like the title track, “Picky Eater,” “Bein’ With You” and Laurie Berkner duet “Soft Things.”
Jamie Broza – I Want A Dog: Broza had me chuckling from the first, title track on this album of pop/rock/Latin jazz tunes. I Want A Dog keeps its fast, funny pace with interspersed skits, interviews and pet sounds. As an added bonus, Jamie will donate 20% of profits to the North Shore Animal League America of New York.
Groove Kid Nation – The Wheels on The Bus: Dad Rodney Lee launched the LA-based Groove Kid Nation project as a clever way to introduce kids to instruments. Groove Kid takes traditional songs and infuses them with Lee’s own brand of retro soul & funk , all tied together with some subtle music education and original characters based on classic nursery rhymes.
The Boogers – Let’s Go: The Ramones of kid rock are back! They stick to the same formula of their last release, and that is a only a good thing. A mix of punk-pop originals and rock-hard remakes of classics like “London Bridge,” The Boogers are a true fist-pumping original.
The Billy Kelly Show – The Family Garden: Billy Kelly has a posse. One listen to his album and a visit to his website, and it is clear why. From his original songwriting to his sense of humor and sketches, Kelly is starting to build a kindie rock brand. His latest release features more original quirky pop confections that tickle the funny bone and please your more refined music tastes.
Ham & Burger – Pharm Phresh: Hip-hop for kids is usually a mixed bag, with some artists totally missing the mark. Ham & Burger have avoided the patronizing tone of other efforts by reworking old staples with a hip-hop funk twist. They know how to get the (birthday) party started, and even end up throwing in a few original tunes as well.
Luv Clowns! – Love Clowns: Whatever your stance is on clowns (scary/funny), this band clearly has a sense of humor and knows how to write an entertaining tune for the family. Based on a fictional bunch of rock-n-roll clowns, the album is part acid trip, part pop treat.
King Britt - Baby Loves Disco: The traveling dance party now has its own soundtrack. We are a beat-loving household, and this album filled the dance music gap in our kindie playlist. Despite a few demerits for the “We Are A Family” remake, this album is a total success. DJ King Britt serves up kid-friendly, dance-floor ready tunes including original tunes about ice cream and playground time, while crafting an irresistible take on the classic “Hey D.J.”
The Baby Grands – The Baby Grands II: Grand, indeed. Ben Rowell and Chuck Nash produce powerful pop, rock and country-tinged tunes for those magic minivan moments when the whole family is rocking out together. The Baby Grands were made for the “open road,” satisfying all members with their sound.
Jeremy Plays Guitar – Use Your Words: Jeremy Zmud and his band received “best of” status in 2010 from Daily Candy, People Magazine, and The LA Times for this sunshiny kindie pop release. Over the 14 tracks, the talented Jeremy Plays Guitar keeps it interesting with slight genre shifts and topics that will hit home (“Use Your Words,” “Your Turn, My Turn”). They even bring in the fabulous Madeleine Peyroux for the jazzy “Keep My Cool.”
Debbie and Friends – Story Songs & Sing Alongs! DVD: Debbie has finally compiled her charming animated videos together into one collection. Whenever we pop this new release in, out little one is glued to the screen as Debbie and the gang do to their animated, musical takes on classic stories like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack & The Beanstalk. ‘Story Songs & Sing Alongs!’ is another great music DVD for your collection and excellent counter-programming for TV-wary parents.
The Pop! For Kids Project: Not an album (yet), but a blog, and a great one at that! The Pop! For Kids Project has indie pop artists from all around the world contributing songs aimed at children. All MP3s posted by curator Dennis Greeuw are created just for this project, and are free to download.
No one is going to accuse Joanie Leeds of being a fly-by-night kindie artist. Leeds’ commitment to bringing music to children started in high school when she taught music to kids at her local temple. After going off to Syracuse to earn a B.F.A. in drama and musical theatre, Leeds began life as a singer/songwriter on the “grown-up” club circuit. But like most kindie musicians, she was led back to children, and starting working at a Manhattan Gymboree as a music specialist and a sing-along entertainer. Eventually, this resulted in the Parents’ Choice Recommended award-winning children’s album City Kid! as well as last year’s holiday album, Challah, Challah.
…and a Kindie Star, too!
Now, Joanie Leeds is gearing up for the March 23 release of her new kids’ CD, I’m a Rock Star, which I was lucky enough to preview.
The album kicks off with the country-tinged title track and follow-up song “Sunglasses,” both featuring hooks that should make country pop stars like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood jealous. “Give Me a Hug” continues in this twangy style, and really shows off Leeds’ ability to craft a song. Further evidence of her songwriting ability is on display in closing tunes “Put A Little Smile On Your Face” and “Goodbye, Goodbye.” Sweet and poppy, all of these songs prove that Leeds should be on speed dial for the latest American Idol looking for a hit tune.
True to her press material’s promise, I’m A Rock Star is also a genre-jumping album, but Leeds pulls it off successfully thanks to its solid production and Joanie’s skilled songwriting. A hip-hop electro vibe is introduced in “More Cowbell,” a quick music lesson hidden in a humorous and bass-heavy song. Things get even more eclectic, and impressive, with “I Like Jazz,” where she manages to adapt her sound to the jazz genre and still make it kid-friendly. The album also adds some rockabilly, Latin and cartoon-style songs to the mix. .
Throughout all these charming and clever songs are kid-friendly messages about being “green,” cleaning up after yourself, learning other languages and understanding your feelings. Overall, Leeds delivers a strong contribution to the kindie scene, proving she knows how to write damn good song for both kids and adults.
Leeds continues her commitment to family music in the year ahead with a music DVD for kids. Also in the works is another album with an animal theme as well as a children’s book/CD combo project.
Visit Joanie Leeds’ official website to learn more about this artist and purchase her new album.