In our family, spring cleaning extends itself over to our family car, and that means swapping out our current CDs for some fresh new tunes. Just in time, The Little Rockers just dropped their third kids’ CD, Count Me In!, and it makes for a refreshing new sound. Chris & Jessie Apple are at it again with a medley of songs that are as diverse as its listening audience. Aimed at ages 2-6, Count Me In! contains plenty of catchy, sing-alongs that are easy on the ears and age-appropriate for the preschool crowd. From the opening title track, to “Wild, Wild West,” each track invites young listeners to use their imaginations and dream big. Whether they are greeting a new neighbor in “Hi, Hi, Hi,” or playing with man’s best friend (and other animal buddies) in “Me & My Dog,” kids will be able to relate to these little ditties in their everyday lives. Grown-up ears will appreciate the tribute to Paul Simon’s “Me & Julio,” not to mention a nod to another classic musician in “Old Mick Jagger.” The dozen tracks capture a variety of musical styles, designed to appeal to a wide range of listeners. Be sure to make room in your family’s musical library for this satisfying release, good for the car, your family room or wherever your kids love to rock out.
In a Nutshell: Get on your feet and clap your hands. This kiddie CD is chock-full of toe tappin’ tunes that will jumpstart your playlist.
When I first heard that Laurie Berkner was releasing her first-ever lullaby album, I practically ran to put on my PJs and jump into bed. Having spoken with her on the phone for an article in a local parenting magazine, I can instantly recall her soothing voice, one that would be ideal for assuring a good night’s sleep for any tired tyke. Sure enough, Laurie Berkner Lullabies offers up plenty of reasons to grab a blankie and settle down for the night. Among our favorites are “Fireflies,” a nod to our favorite season and its magical creatures, and “Pillowland,” an imaginary place that invites listeners to play and dream. Astute listeners will pick up on two Berkner classics, “Under A Shady Tree” and “Five Days Old” that have been refreshed with toned down vocals and muted musical accompaniment. The result is soothing songs that are just as good as their originals, if not more meaningful. Parents in search of a new way to help little ones wind down before bedtime need look no further. Berkner has a standing invitation to our house, 8 p.m. sharp. Nighty-nighty.
In a Nutshell: Getting ready for bed just got a whole lot easier, thanks to a new release of lullabies from a favorite indie kids’ artist.
I confess: I kinda like doing laundry. I find the chore of sorting colors and whites rather soothing and the sounds of a tumbling dryer, a familiar comfort. Because I wind up folding clothes during our nightly DVR catch-up, this mindless task comes full circle as my day wraps up. I wish all household tasks didn’t require me to expend that much energy (for instance, I loath loading/emptying the dishwasher)…as long as the batch of clothes I’m folding doesn’t reveal any mismatched socks. No matter how much my family tries to keep those pairs together, a lone sock somehow ends up without his mate, and that’s just no fun. Where does that illusive sock go, I sometimes wonder? Could he have taken on another persona, perhaps something a bit more meaningful? In my bizarre fantasy, he has a starring role in a cool kiddie band with a fitting name: The Dirty Sock Funtime Band, one that just happens to have released a brand-new CD, The Dirty Socks Come Clean. If their name rings a bell, you may remember this wacky group from Nick Jr. music spots where, to this sleep-deprived new mom, it looked like they were having more fun than should be allowed. Today, their non-stop music party continues with 18 songs that never lose momentum. From the wild opening title track, to the quieter ballads like “Mama’s Song” and “Lenny,” these guys know how to play to their audience: kids who love a good, old-fashioned dance party, followed by a necessary cool-down. Guest singer Laurie Berkner adds her own flavor to the jazzy “We’re in Love,” while “I’m Hungry” satisfies the otherwise insatiable appetite for a unique sound featuring a touch of Klezmer. No matter what type of music they are dishing up, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band proves once again that their music is fresh, fun and always ready for a good time. Now if only I could find that missing sock…
In a Nutshell: A kiddie band that truly knocks our socks off.
It takes a lot for a CD to earn its scratches. Well-worn records of my childhood meant they were played over and over so much, we knew the lyrics by heart. Bruised knees weren’t a sign of rough play, but having been pounded one too many times as we mimicked the drum beat of our favorite songs. Well, it may be time for my kids to rack up a few bumps of their own, thanks to the effervescent, contagious sounds of Josh & the Jamtones’ Bear Hunt! What starts out as ode to gospel with “Swing Low” quickly segues into a mix of storytelling and songs that make themselves known–in the best possible way. The title track takes attentive listeners on an imaginative journey that carries them through the entire play list. By the time we got to “I Love U,” the sound had shifted to a ska-like beat, reminiscent of one of my favorites, The Specials. (“I think we’ve heard this song before,” claimed my 9-year-old, a kid who’s been listening to the band since she was in utero.) While the music may at times appear familiar, it is never unoriginal. Other favorites include the you-can’t-sit-still “Everybody Dance!” and the delightful pairing of “The Snow is Falling Down” and “Snow Day,” making the impending season a little more ‘bear-able.’ As our musical adventure began to wind down and my girls and I regained our breath, I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I expect we’ll be rocking out a lot more this season.
In a Nutshell: Surrender to the beat of a fresh new sound that dares to be different–and succeeds.
Who doesn’t remember the first Beatles song they ever heard? For me, it was “Octopus’s Garden.” While I don’t recall exactly how old I was, it was pre-MTV music videos and the visuals in my head stimulated my imagination much like a picture book might. For my daughters, both girls learned “Yellow Submarine” in their preschool days. A perfect singalong, this tune’s repetitious verse and rhythm is perfectly paced for the untrained listening ear whose just getting the hang of following instructions and paying attention. So naturally, we weren’t surprised when Caspar Babypants decided to pay tribute to these living legends with his own musical love letter. Baby Beatles marks the seventh album for this alt-rocker-turned-kid-rock-musician whose own experience as a Beatles worshipper dates back to his toddler days. The vocalist for The President of the United States of America puts his own personal stamp on beloved Beatles classics, many of which easily translate into ideal kiddie tunes. “Here Comes the Sun” leads the pack as a gentle rendition to get kids accustomed to this unique sound. As is true in his earlier releases, Babypants has a knack for putting his own personal stamp on each song, so that by the time we get to “Ob La Di Ob La Da,” kids will be signing right along with them, as though they too were born to rock. Diehard fans will appreciate Babypants‘ choice to include some lesser-known favorites, including “Anytime at All” and “I’m Only Sleeping.” In our opinion, “All You Need is Love” should be considered the album’s signature song. Because, for the adult Beatles listener looking to introduce his own kids to this timeless sound, all he needs is Babypants.
In a Nutshell: The Beatles fan base is destined to grow even bigger, with this updated compilation for a new generation. We think Sir Paul would approve.
Don’t be freaked out by the title of this post. I realize I wrote about Halloween last time, and now it seems as if we’ve already fast-forwarded to November (heaven forbid!). Instead, we’re paying tribute to a quality with year-round appeal, one that never goes out of style, and that’s good manners. It’s a skill that (hopefully) our parents cultivate and that we continue to refine through adulthood (haven’t you appreciated when someone holds the door for you, or when another driver lets you out in front of him?). In our house, we’re “big” on saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ but generosity goes beyond those simple gestures. And that’s something wholeheartedly embraced by Recess Music‘s latest CD, Gratitude Attitude. Chock-full of a variety of musical styles, each little number celebrates the purpose of showing one’s appreciation, even for the little things. From the simple sincerity behind “I’m Glad You’re Here,” to the straightforward “Only Take What You Need,” the message behind these musical compilations is to not take for granted what you’re given, be it big (a healthy family) or small (the person who let you go ahead on the express check-out line). “In My Family’s House” became my 5-year-old’s personal favorite (I hear her humming the repetitive verse while she’s playing), while “The Table Manners Polka” couldn’t help but make me chuckle. No matter which song turns into your child’s mantra, we’re sure you won’t mind her playing this CD over and over…as long as she asks you nicely.
In a Nutshell: Good manners are all the rage. Gratitude Attitude recognizes the power of politeness–and has a blast while doing it.
I don’t know where I’d be without our public library these last few weeks. Given the unsettled weather as of late, we’ve been more book-bound than beach-bound, and that means taking advantage of the wealth of children’s programs. Today’s class was an unexpected treasure, as my girls were treated to a lively performance by a children’s musician I’d not yet stumbled upon. The aptly named Story Laurie was a sight for sore eyes…or perhaps it was the other way around? As she emerged from her tent and feigned surprise to her audience, we got our first taste of this silly, yet playful songwriter. What we liked best about Laurie is her down-to-earth way she relates to her young audience. Rather than just launching into song as some kids’ artists do, she takes advantage of the intimate performance venues by asking questions, sharing a tidbit or two from her own life story and then tying it all into her music. The result is engaging, thoughtful entertainment that clearly comes from the heart. And judging from the expressions on the other parents’ faces in the audience, they too got caught up in Laurie’s infectious energy. Favorite numbers taken from the Groovin’ in the Garden CD included “Wonderful Wiggly Worms” and “Homegrown Tomatoes.” Laurie brought along her own props, including worms that traveled all the way from her compost pile back home in the Hudson Valley, and seed packets that doubled as take-home gifts for each family in the audience. Don’t worry, Laurie; the memory of your music will linger long after those seeds have sprouted.
In a Nutshell: One part storyteller, one part songstress equals all-around great listening. This is one kid performer that rocks.
My daughter’s piano teacher recently enticed my 9-year-old with a new musical conquest: an introduction to classical music. Since the extent of my daughter’s experience in this genre boils down to the hold music on her father’s office phone, she’s about to enter into a whole new world of sound. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of Bach, Beethoven and the rest of the boys myself, so this should be a brand-new venture for the both of us. In the hopes of making this sound a little more accessible for our untrained ears, we’ve been listening to the just-released Young Avenue Kids’ Whatever I Want To Be. The genius of this CD is its clever adaptation, taking core classical melodies and putting a modern spin on them with the addition of catchy lyrics. Don’t worry about stuffy-sounding compositions or sleep-inducing sonotas; this is one CD that rocks out when you least expect it. From the first number that launches off with a fitting title, “Blast Off With Suppe,” to the equally clever “William Tell Is Oh So Swell,” each composition delivers a well-paired sound/voice combination that will keep young listeners engaged and eagerly awaiting the next track. And even after the music winds down, the learning doesn’t come to an immediate close, thanks to plenty of post-track content in which kids share fun factoids about the famous composers themselves. Who knows? Maybe my daughter will be able to teach me a thing or two.
In a Nutshell: A crash course in classical music for the beginning listener, Whatever I Want To Be gives kids the flexibility to learn at their own pace, and in a unique format.
Still trying to come to the grips with yesterday’s tragedy in Boston, I had a hard time getting myself in writing mode this morning. But after dropping my daughter off at preschool and seeing all those happy, little faces, I found the motivation I was looking for. If reviewing kids’ products and working in the children’s industry isn’t a sign of hope and rejuvenation, I don’t know what is. It was precisely this morning that my 4-year-old and I discovered the just-released CD from Miss Nina. A follow-up to Singing & Dancing Together, Sha Doo Be Doop is a spirited release of toe-tapping tunes that can’t help give you a little bit of a lift. Miss Nina’s music teacher background is evident throughout this collection of catchy sing-a-longs, many of which kids can pick up after just a few listens. From “Angry Song,” which playfully grants permission to let it all out, to “Ridin’ In My Car,” which takes the boredom out of ho-hum errands, these tracks keep the beat without going overboard. Our favorite, by far, was “The Brown Bear Rap,” a hip-hop ode to our favorite Eric Carle story, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” Miss Nina has a clever way of combining classic kid lit with nursery rhymes to create a unique sound. In fact, it’s just one of several book-inspired tunes that bring a liveliness to the printed page, like “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?” and “Wild Things”–perfect teaching tools for the preschool classroom. An upbeat tempo and memorable lyrics make Sha Doo Be Doop a way to enjoy the world as it should be seen: through the eyes of child…or at least, a child at heart.
In a Nutshell: The perfect panacea for tough times, this new kiddie CD delivers smiles all around.
Musicians come and go, especially in the temperamental kid biz, but when a band has been around the block, we can effortlessly turn on their tunes and know we won’t be disappointed. One such kid rock band with staying power is Milkshake and the band’s latest concoction, Got a Minute?, is worth more than a listen. Like most seasoned musicians, Milkshake’s sound has matured over the years, but this release reflects a well-rounded sound to suit a myriad of different tastes. From the jammin’ “We Just Wanna Have Fun,” to the more mellow “Starry, Starry Night,” the band exudes a self- assurance that allows them to bounce back and forth between pop rock, to country, without missing a beat. With more than 30 tracks on this comprehensive CD, Milkshake covers a lot of musical ground and rightfully owns up to its eclectic style. On a recent day spent towing kids around on various errands, spot-on songs like “Look Out Window” punched up some otherwise mundane chores. “Rainy Day Dance Party” may just be on our play list this spring when inclement weather keeps us indoors. Giving us plenty of food for thought, Milkshake is a listening treat worth indulging in.
In a Nutshell: Drink in the sound of rockin’ kid band that just won’t quit. Milkshake’s fifth CD takes the cake!