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’s Apple Apple is 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’s Kepi 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.”
Although KinderAngst 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 Boom has 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’s Middle of Nowhere album 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!