1. THE OLD HEN CACKLED (RED YARN’S OLD BARN) – Red Yarn – “Old Hen” is dark and brooding and not at all your standard kid’s song. Same thing with “Did You Feed My Cow?” a duet with Jazzy Ash, and other great renditions of songs from the American folk music catalog, coupled with originals found on this album. Singer Andy Furgeson says, “I try not to shy away from real world issues and seek a “mature” sound that reflects the content. I know it’s not for everyone.” But it works for me, and listeners of Young At Heart.
2. WHEN I’M WITH YOU (BEST KIDS) – Best Coast – I love hearing what great pop bands do when they make music for kids, since more often than not, they don’t dumb it down. Maybe it’s because they are coming from an adult place and simply change the subject matter but keep their sound. That’s exactly what Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno of Best Coast did with their Amazon Music release Best Kids. They took popular traditional kid songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” along with some originals, and gave it their beachy punk pop spin. Lovely, and very kid-friendly. Listen to my interview with Bethany here.
3. LA LUNA (LA LUNA) – Uno Dos Tres Andres – Andres Salguero and his wife Christina Sanbria have released a simply beautiful CD of Spanish lullabies full of lush strings and soothing vocals. I don’t know much Spanish but it doesn’t matter here – it’s a soothing and very satisfying listen. Besides being dynamic live performers, Andres and Christina are Teaching Artists working in area schools. Click here to listen to their smARTbeats interview.
4. YOU GET WHAT YOU GET (NAVIGATE) – Bears and Lions – No, it’s not just the cute costumes these indie rockers darn to turn into Bears and Lions – it’s the ambitious idea of creating a concept album with a funny storyline (saving a walrus stuck in a pool in Saudi Arabia), with songs like this one, that can stand alone as simple good advice.
5. SHINE YOUR LIGHT (HOLD TIGHT SHINE BRIGHT) – 33 kindie artists came together to add their talents to this digital only release, with all proceeds going to RAICES TEXAS. A mix of previously released and new songs written just for this cause, it’s a great compilation of some of my favorite and new kindie bands.
6. CAREFREE (BLUE SKIES AND SUNNY DAYS) – Frances England – I confess I love pretty much anything Frances England sends my way. It’s her voice, her arrangements, her beautiful sentiments. Frances’ latest is a response to negativity and a quest for finding the positive through the simple pleasures in life.
7. HELICOPTER LEAVES – (WHY WHY WHY) – Ants Ants Ants – Indie rockers Johnny Clay and Dave Gulick have spent years playing catchy rock songs for adults. Like Best Coast and Bears & Lions, Ants Ants Ants knows how to change the subject matter to kid-friendly while keeping their great indie sound.
8. TIE: ALL THE SOUNDS (ALL THE SOUNDS) – Lucy Kalantari and the Jazz Cats – Lucy and band make rich jazz pop inspired by old Warner Brother cartoons and TV shows. On this song, Lucy slows her normally high-energy down and invites the listener to take time to pause, and listen. This album is a Grammy Nominee. Check out my interview with Lucy here. TOUR GUIDE (TOUR GUIDE) – Cheri Magill – Cheri has released an album of love songs to her child, and it’s lush and beautiful. The title track gets me every time.
9. SPACE ADVENTURE (GIANTS OF SCIENCE) – The Pop Ups – Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein know how make hooky pop songs for kids, full of musical ear candy that’s good and sticky. On their latest release, it’s all about science, with songs about time, space and discovery. This album is a Grammy Nominee.
10. TIE: TU ERES MI FLOR (TU ERES MI FLOR) – Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz – Elizabeth Mitchell and Suni Paz have crafted a sing-along album of folk songs in Spanish. Elizabeth’s gentle warm voice is the perfect yin yang for Suni Paz deep, rich vocals. ALEGRIA! (ALEGRIA!) – Sonia De Los Santos – Sonia’s second solo effort is like its title, full of joy, with songs in both English and Spanish, with special guests, including Dan Zanes and Cathy & Marcy.