I’ve never been successful at keeping up with my kids’ academics during the summer. On more than one occasion, I’ve suddenly realized its August 1st and dragged my kids to a bookstore, bought summer activity books, and subjected my kids to daily worksheets in an effort to help them overcome the dreaded summer brain drain before starting the school year.
You can imagine how much they love that, right?
However, workbooks can only do so much. When I really stop to think about all my kids are experiencing in the summer time, they’re learning plenty. It’s not just counting how many Otter Pops they can consume in one sitting either. Outdoor summer fun is ripe with science and geography lessons. Board games and a rousing go at “Capture the Flag” challenge logic and strategy skills. Language art gets satisfied with our weekly trips to the library. Cannonballs off the high dive board fulfill PE requirements.
And we get plenty of fine arts lessons by way of the constant stream of music we listen to. Luckily, there are some great family music releases this summer to keep young minds thinking, questioning and learning.
First up, The Whizpops‘ fourth album Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix, Vol. 1 (released May 20) features 11 original songs with wildlife themes. This album is the first in a series in collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation to support its conservation efforts.
Missoula, Montana elementary school teachers Kevin Cashman and Casey Schaefer comprise The Whizpops with other gifted musicians, who created science-based music. National Wildlife Federation’s adorable raccoon ambassador Ranger Rick helps The Whizpop’s spread their messages about endangered animals of North America, aided by a veritable “Who’s Who” in kindie artists like The Pop Ups, Recess Monkey, Danny Weinkauf and Bill Harley.
The Whizpops make smart music, embracing a range of genres from pop (like the 80’s vibe of “Pika”) to reggae (“Monarch”) to country (“Stream That I Call Home [Bull Trout Song]).
They’re not afraid to utilize electronic, synthesizer solos while they drop nuggets of animal trivia (like, did you know that a polar bear’s seal meal will give him eight days of energy?). This approach is quickly apparent in the lead-off track, “Swift Fox,” an upbeat pop tune sung from the point of view of a fox.
The album content feels like a tour through the wilderness with a private park ranger as each song focuses on a particular animal, each with its own distinct musical personality. The piano intro of “Black Footed Ferret” sounds like it could easily be a Ben Folds track, launching in to a funky tempo with a fun rap bridge.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is the slower tempo pseudo-ballad “Everything’s Better with a Mustache (Walrus Song),” bringing up a Foo Fighter essence with rocking guitar solos as an ode to the Walrus and mustaches. Another tune I found listening to a few times on repeat is “Polar Bear,” with its groovy hook.
Other tracks include the dreamy, laid-back beach vibe of “California Condor,” “Gulo Gulo (Wolverine),” “Bison,” and the final track “Extinction Really Stinks,” which builds awareness of dwindling animal species, the impact extinction has on our planet and what we can do to help, with a big ensemble of vocalists. Think “We Are the World” for extinct animals.
A downloadable learning guide for family and educators will be available this summer from this collaboration, just another way you can check the Science box of your summer learning curriculum.
You can always rely on Brady Rymer to deliver an album full of fun arrangements and diverse musical styles, and his latest release, Press Play is no exception. Released June 24, Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could offer 12 original songs that encourage listeners to try new things and believe in themselves.
This latest release feels a bit more mature and sophisticated, with many songs on the album hitting home with me as a parent in ways I hadn’t expected. But this doesn’t mean that young ears won’t love this album as well. The title track, “Press Play” starts off the album with a catchy beat and lively horns and piano that hook you in to see what else Rymer has up his sleeve.
The sweet piano intro on the ballad “ The Only One” reminds me of the Hill Street Blues or Cheers theme. That sense of melancholy, combined with the wistful sounds of the brush drumstick makes this one of my favorite songs on this album as it encourages listeners to be who they want to be and remain as authentically unique as they are.
Several other songs tug at my heartstrings, like “ Hold This Home Together.” A groovy baseline serves as the foundation for the lyrics that feel more like a love song for a parenting partner. I love how this song illustrates the makings of a good partnership, emphasizing working together as a united family to keep a home together.
The fiddle and steel guitar on “Dress in Blue” calls to mind Lyle Lovett or Ryan Adams, pleading for the pretty girl to dance with him and be his girl.
I’m not sure what Rymer does best, toe tapping tunes or beautiful ballads, because he excels at both. The love song “Your Love Turns the World Around” feels Randy Newman-inspired, with simple piano and vocal arrangements and lyrics that will make parents want to squeeze their little ones in agreement.
Rymer’s music has good intentions at its core, championing young ears to believe in themselves and their abilities. The reggae track “I Surprised Myself” captures the joy of accomplishing something you didn’t know you could, like riding a bike for the first time or jumping in to a pool. “Don’t Knock It ‘til You Try It” is the quintessential optimism anthem. “It’s a Beauty” is the boastful, rockabilly cry of an old 1933 pumper truck that’s been spruced up to shear perfection after a career of service.
You’ll be able to fulfill some social studies learning while discussing the tracks on the album that help children explore their place in the world. “Me on the Map” finds inspiration from 1980’s/90’s folk rock bands while asking listeners to see themselves in relation to the rest of the world. Through a rocking horn section, “Chain Reaction” discusses a concept I’ve been exploring with my own kids – the idea of creating a chain reaction of good will and paying forward peaceful gestures. “Switcheroo Day” has a Jimmy Buffet feel about it, with its organ and hint of calypso as Rymer sings about the fun of spending time in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world from their perspective.
The album closes with the celebratory gospel-influenced “One Day by the Riverside,” ending the album with a sense of hope and beauty.
123 Andrés, a new voice to be reckoned with in the family music scene, released Arriba Abajo June 10. This album features 10 original songs in Spanish, followed by the same 10 tracks in English (with a bonus track), that seamlessly integrate educational and language acquisition concepts with lively melodies and a sense of discovery and imagination.
This album acts as a comprehensive learning guide for preschoolers. For instance, it covers music introduction with the rolling music scales of “Vamos a cantar”/“Sing Now With Me”. Numbers are explored through the fun, dense instrumentation in “Diez pajaritos”/“Ten Little Birds” and in the bouncy tempo and soaring harmonies of “El danzón y el cha cha cha chá”/“Danzón and the Cha Cha Chá.”
Language concepts are presented in tunes like the unusually metered arrangement of “Las do vacas”/”The Two Cows” that compares two cows with contrasting adjectives like “enormous or tiny.” “Dame una A”/”Give Me an A” examines vowels and words that begin with letters of the alphabet.
Science concepts get some attention in songs about different body types (in the island vibe of “Cosquillas”/“Tickles”),of a plant growing from a seed (the spoken text and song “La semilla”/”The Seed”), the movement of a scarf and the joy it can bring (“Vuela, vuela”/”Fly, fly”), and the beauty of the atmosphere (“Cielo, suelo”/”Sky, Ground”).
My favorite track on the album is “Lunes luna”/”Monday, Moon,” which discusses the days of the week through a lovely melody and string arrangement. “Colorin, Colorado” is the bonus track featuring Radio Jaracho and Zenen Zeferino, with fun guitars and clapping in a fun syncopated rhythm.
Included in the album is a 35-page learning guide for educators and families that acts as an extension of the concepts introduced in the album, such as numbers, shapes, and “pre-reading.”
Disclosures: I was provided a copy of these products for review purposes. All opinions are 100% completely my own. Full Of It is a participant in the iTunes Affiliate Program. If you click on some of the product links above, I will receive a small commission which in turn helps run this site. Don’t fear, I only recommend tunes that I think you’ll love!