I don’t know about you, but this summer feels like it’s flying by. It’s been jam packed with swimming, camps, travels, popsicles, and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.
And the field of family music is just as full this July! So, since I have a lot to introduce you to, let’s just dive right in.
The Jolly Pops is a great little band founded by three musicians/fathers: Ryan Ecklund, Billy Hartong, and Angus Clark. Their newest CD, I Didn’t Do It clearly shows that these are fathers who know what kids like. If your kids favor musicians like The Imagination Movers or Suzi Shelton, they’ll love The Jolly Pops.
Their sound is a wonderful mix of rock and pop with solid vocals, driving guitars and kickin’ drum beats. It’s a sound that adults can identify with, but contain lyrics that showcase the band’s ability to “get” kids.
For instance, fun songs like “Popsicles” and “Chicken Nuggets” will appeal to young ears and appetites. “Alligator Dance” is a bright new-wave song that brings back memories of me dancing to “Safety Dance” in my teens. “I’m Mad” and “Feelings” teaches kids it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. And “Mama’s Not a Monkey Bar” falls in to the camp of things you never thought you’d say as a parent.
With appearances by the lovely Suzi Shelton and others, The Jolly Pops might just be that missing piece to your family’s music collection.
Somewhere Beautiful by Roses For Panjo is one of those albums that I listen to and can’t get enough of.
From the first few notes, I fell in love with Tanya Leah’s crystal clear and spellbinding voice. Created for her father after he suffered a stroke to help soothe him, Somewhere Beautiful is a mellow album that you’ll want to put on repeat.
While not designed as children’s album, it is great as a family album, and something you could put on while reading books or getting ready for bed. Tanya Leah’s sound is a similar flavor to Shawn Colvin or Norah Jones, and shines on her latest album.
Standout songs on the album include the uplifting title track “Somewhere Beautiful”, the upbeat “Signs of Spring” and her dreamy rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”
Putumayo Kids has a knack for transporting me to another world, and they’re back with their latest collection to sweep me away to the land down under with Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground. With songs by Australian singer-songrwriters and Aboriginal groups, and mentions of kangaroos, vegemite and kookaburras, I can’t help but feel a bit Aussie. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t The Wiggles.
I am amazed by the variety on the album, and the tunes are vastly different but feel like a coherent group. There’s a bit of pop and folk (Bob Brown’s “Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees,” Joe Hall and The Treehouse Band’s “Loose Change,” Don Spencer’s “Kangaroo,” and the beguiling voice of Rosie Burgess on “Random Acts”), to island music similar to Carribbean music (The Neo and Garrangali’s “Let’s Go” and Garrangali’s “Mirri”), to what we classify as more “world music” (Kamerung’s “Seisia” and Seaman Dan’s “Mango Rain”).
And what Australian album would be complete without a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”? Lazy Harry provides a lovely version of the best-known Australian tune.
A percentage of proceeds benefit the Australian Children’s Music Foundation which provides music programs to the disadvantaged. Liner notes provide insight about each musician and song, making the album a complete educational experience. And as a bonus, it also includes a kid-friendly Australian recipe for damper bread.
Seattle band The Not-Its‘ distinct sound sets them apart from many other children’s musicians. Being veteran punk rockers, there is some seriously rockin’ music back behind those kid-friendly lyrics, sung with gratifyingly edgy voices. And now, they’re back with their fifth album (and the follow up to KidQuake!) Raise Your Hand.
Parents, brace yourselves. You may find yourself listening to this when your kids aren’t around.
The Not-Its understand what kids go through. Their struggles (“Funniest Cat Video,” “When I Fell (The Scab Song),” and “Waiting List”) and preferences (“Flannel Jammies”) get some attention through lively harmonies. Summer-appropriate songs of insects (“Mosquito Eater”, and “Bee’s Knees”, a save-the-bees/save-the-planet anthem) and outdoor activities (“We’re Gonna Hike”) demonstrate The Not-Its humor and fun.
And there are some goodies for the parents too. “Motorcycle Mom” paints a picture of a biker mom who tears up the PTA. And “Hey 80’s’ had me nodding my head at every reference. (If you’re a child of the 80’s, it would be fun to go through this song and explain every line.)
“Love is Love” may be one of my favorites on the album, and speaks to the idea that while the definition of family is changing, the foundation of love is the same.
Other great tunes include the title track “Raise Your Hand,” “Haircut,” and “Nose In a Book.”
And check out the video for “Haircut”!
The Not-Its’ Raise Your Hand is available July 15th on their site.
Remember “Baby Beluga”? Or what about “Down by the Bay”? And I think I played “Bananaphone” for my son as a toddler more than I thought humanly possible.
If you know what I’m talking about, then you surely know Raffi.
It’s been twelve years since he’s released an album of children’s songs, but he’s back with Love Bug, an album that was certainly worth the wait.
Raffi still has the ability to capture your attention, creating catchy tunes and heartwarming lyrics. The 16 tracks on Love Bug feel like a treasure chest, filled with all sorts of gems sure to appeal to every taste. It’s a journey through love, the magic of childhood, and the majesty of nature, accompanied by Raffi’s melodic strengths and alluring voice.
“Seeing the Heart” glistens on the album, and is my new favorite love song, reminding me of the purity of a child’s heart. “Magic Wand” feels like a wish list from every parent of a new baby for what they hope the world would be for them. Raffi infuses this hope for a better world and a healthy planet, filled with love, in songs like “Blue White Planet” and “Turn this World Around.”
But he hasn’t lost his aptitude for creating catchy and entertaining tunes such as “Mama Loves It” and “Doggone Woods.” “Cool Down Reggae” is a slow-paced tune that makes me want to swing on a hammock with my kids and chillax. If they’d let me, that is. And the instrumental tracks like “Wind Chimes” and “Pete’s Banjo” adds just the right amount of sprinkles to this delicious treat of an album