KIDS ROCK TOO
By Peter Bottomley
When my daughter was first born I began searching for children's music that I would find tolerable (no Raffi, please) and what I initially came across were the "kindie rock" compilations For the Kids Too!, See You on the Moon!, School House Rock! Rocks, and Play. Some of my favorite tracks came from For the Kids Too!, but one song that did not particularly catch my attention was Lisa Loeb's "Catch the Moon." However, this past summer brought Lisa Loeb's newest children's album, Camp Lisa (Furious Rose), and after hearing it dozens of times in the car I've grown to like a handful of songs. Some of it like "Woodchuck #1, #2 & #3" is a bit camp-y and more geared towards the elementary school crowd, but tracks like "Wake Up Song," "It's Not Goodbye" and "The Disappointing Pancake" are catchy and enjoyable for the whole family.
When I first heard about Laurie Berkner I checked out Under a Shady Tree from the library but the only song I could enjoy was the title track. Well, it turns out this is my daughter's favorite song and if allowed it could be played again and again on repeat for hours. It also turns out that, largely because of appearances on Noggin, Laurie is one of the most popular children's musicians today and has a new album out, Rocketship Fun (Two Tomatoes). The music is catchy and toe-tapping, and more than any other children's musician Laurie Berkner knows what kids like. The lyrics are silly and fun, and Rocketship Fun is a concept album of sorts, taking a musical journey on a rocket ship in search of treasure. It's irresistible folk-pop that is perfectly crafted for children but appeals to the whole family.
Following the success of the movie soundtrack for Juno, Kimya Dawson decided to release a new studio album of children's songs. Alphabutt (K) isn't much of a departure from Kimya's parent-intended silly, personal songs. Rather she has taken that same songwriting and tweaked it to discuss topics for the younger set. The downside to this silly quality is the crude potty humor gets a bit old after repeated listens, and, as any parent knows, when a kid likes a song or album there are many repeated listens. And the downside to the personal bend is that too many of the songs speak directly about (or to) her daughter, Panda. (And if you didn't know she has a daughter named Panda you'd be left scratching your head.) The songs are catchy and fun, but the album is juvenile and, as one online review said it best, requires an "immature sense of humor."
Over the years I've heard of The Wiggles and vowed to never fall victim to them. (You can root this in my loathing of Raffi as a child.) And I was successful until last week when a copy of the new album You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (Koch) was sent to me and my daughter accepted it with open ears. I still don't really understand the attraction, it's nothing more than upbeat covers with an Australian accent, but I guess that is all it takes for a two-year-old to be happy. I just hope I never have to go to a Wiggles concert, I already experienced that enough through an episode of Yes, Dear.
All Together Now (Little Monster), which features Marshall Crenshaw, Rachel Yamagata, Jason Lytle and The Bangles, is described as a "refreshed collection of favorite Beatles hits," but really there is nothing about the original Beatles songs that isn't kid-friendly. I've played Beatles albums for my daughter since the day she was born, and so the idea of a kid's album of Beatles music is a little bit redundant. The one nice thing about All Together Now is the packaging. My daughter always loves looking at the CD booklet when the music is playing, and even when those booklets are colorful and fun they're still made of your standard, easily-destructible CD booklet paper. This packaging is a children's board book and can withstand the abuse of a toddler. Each song also has a poem that you can read to your child, and a Beatles fun fact that is more geared to the parent.
And finally, although it might not be as adult-enjoyable as kindie rock, children attach themselves to TV characters and so if your kid loves Sesame Street they will enjoy The Best of Elmo and Hot! Hot! Hot! Dance Songs (Koch). There might not be much here to praise musically, but if your kid wants an Elmo fix and you don't want them in front of the TV all day this is a good substitute. And for the holidays there's A Sesame Street Christmas and Elmo Saves Christmas: Holiday Favorites (Koch).