Stuff We Like: Listen Up!
Lullaby baby in the tree top…While that may be a classic, there are new kids’ tunes in town. NYMetroParents editorial director Dawn M. Roode shares the latest and greatest in catchy songs, boogie-worthy jams, and calming melodies.
Didgeridoo, Doo, Doo
World music aficionados will already be familiar with Putumayo’s eclectic offerings, and its latest for families, Australian Playground ($14.98), won’t disappoint: from the whistling in the happy, lazy ditty “Kangaroo” to the big band feel of “The Road to Gundagai,” these songs from Down Under are infectious and diverse. My favorite: the folksy “Seisa” performed by Celtic-influenced Queensland band Kamerunga.
Pop Goes the Party
One of my son’s first live concerts was Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, so my boy was thrilled recently to test-drive the group’s upbeat new CD, Just Say Hi! ($13.98) From the opening notes a party vibe takes over—shoulders start bopping and smiles spread wide. The Grammy-nominated band’s energetic, signature sound inspires on songs about family, love…and ice cream. Rymer slips some ragtime piano into this one, too. Sneak a few tunes into your workout mix, Mom and Dad—they’ll get you going, and no one will be the wiser.
Earlier this summer saw the return of a beloved artist who had been absent from the children’s music scene: Raffi recorded much of Love Bug ($9.99), his first new kids’ album in more than a decade, in his living room. Amidst the playful and imaginative turns that have long defined Raffi’s sound are two songs that pay homage to heroes: the instrumental “Pete’s Banjo” is a tribute to folk icon Pete Seeger and “Turn This World Around” honors leader Nelson Mandela. Every song, though, is filled with joy and, as the title hints, feels infused with love.
Sí, Se Puede—Dance, That Is!
The Spanish-language Aqui, Alla ($9.98) blends Chicano rock, indie pop, and Tejano sounds to engage a new generation of young music lovers. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band put forth one celebratory song after another—culminating in the rousing “De Colores”—but it’s the pensive title ballad that proves to be most moving, asking: ¿De dónde venimos y hacia dónde vamos? “I am from two places,” says Mexican-American Diaz. “I am from here, and I am from there. I live in the space between. I live in the culmination of both.” For those of Latino descent who identify as Americans, this album honors that blended heritage in a wonderfully positive way, and for listeners of every background, the language of the music transcends any need for translation.
Will It Float?
What happens when three teachers, a biologist, a language arts professor, a wealth management consultant, and myriad nature loving parents get together? They jam, of course. Calling themselves the Whizpops, this assortment of talented musicians presents their third science-themed album for kids, Sea Blue Sea ($9.99). The educational lyrics teach about marine life (songs include “Manatee,” “Coral Reef,” and “Manta Ray”) but never feel preachy, while the grooves are catchy and fluid. Your little Octonauts and Wild Kratts fans will be in tune with this seafaring album.
Park Slope, Brooklyn-based mom of two and artist Suzi Shelton’s latest release is titled Smile in My Heart ($12.97), and we can guarantee the smiles will seep out for all to see when you pop this CD in the player. “Banjo-Pickin’ Girl” is as catchy as a tune gets; “Go, Fire Truck, Go” (cowritten by a 4-year-old from NYC!) gets the most requests at live shows, according to Shelton; and “Tomboy in a Princess Dress” might be favored by parents for its positive message, but it will be embraced by kids for its irrepressible beat. The songwriter has wielded her mic and guitar at shows from Symphony Space to the White House, and recently launched a personal performance service at suzishelton.com called “Skype with Suzi.
Strumming Them to Sleep
Once I Lived Upon the Sea ($14.97) from singer songwriter Steve Weeks should be a welcome addition to parents’ arsenal of bedtime sounds. His gentle acoustic melodies won’t lull kids to sleep (trust me, I tried that approach!), but they will help settle active minds and calm kids’ bodies as part of a warm and fuzzy nighttime routine. The homespun chords of songs such as “My Grandpa Gave Me a Hammer” and “Close Your Eyes Willy Boy” feel personal and affectionate (Weeks is a master storyteller), yet never cloying—like a one-man performance right in your kid’s bedroom.
Parents Making Tracks
The Not-Its! may be kindie rock’s best-dressed band, sure, but they’ve also got pop chops and harmonies to spare. Their energetic songs on 2014’s Raise Your Hand ($10) paint pictures of childhood with a touch of irony—see: “When I Fell (The Scab Song”)—and encourage listeners to think openly. “Love Is Love,” for instance, is a buoyant bit celebrating every kind of family—“even if your family doesn’t look like mine!” These parents from Seattle use their own experiences to create music that feels like summer all year ’round, helping kids and weary adults escape into a world of fun and toe-tapping pleasures.