There’s something sacred and fulfilling in the process of making art. As a dancer, I was always more interested in the process of making work than I was with the performance of it. Exploring a concept from different angles. Trying something, failing, then trying again. It’s the original growth mindset. For me, the journey is always a richer environment for growth and self-discovery than the final destination.
Which is why I’m so excited about two new family music releases dropping this spring. There’s something about the start of Spring that promotes new growth and development. These two albums offer deep insights in to the artists’ creative process, and it translates to a rich experience for the listener.
Frances England releases her fifth family music album, Explorer of the World, on April 1, celebrating explorations big and small.
The ten tracks on England’s latest album encourage a spirit of curiosity about not only the world at-large, but the immediate world around the listener. England inspires listeners to look around and find delight and wonder in the everyday.
England explains that the soundtrack of her hometown of San Francisco was the inspiration for this latest album, and she incorporates the actual sounds of the city in to her compositions.
The overarching theme of the album emphasizes the importance of looking up and around, paying attention to the world around you, both near and far, evident on the title track “Explorer of the World.” The adventurous spirit also appears on “My Street” with its fun, electronic beat, and “All the “Things I Found” (which examines the fun in keeping record of what’s been discovered).
England pays tribute to her own neighborhood in several tracks, capturing the energy of a bustling city. “City Don’t Sleep” features urban sounds that England recorded while walking late at night (think: the squawking breaks of a city bus). The tune also boasts a fun horn break, arranged by Dave Winer.
You can check out the video for “City Don’t Sleep” and other goodies from Frances England on her YouTube channel HERE.
The city life also appears on “Street Life” (with its bucket drum performer and great tuba intro), and “Ballad For a Beatboxer,” in which you can feel England’s appreciation for the skill, magic, rhythm and passion a beatboxer possesses.
“City of Hills” feels like a love song to San Francisco, mentioning famous landmarks of the city and the herald of lovely voices in the chorus. Who wouldn’t want to visit San Fran after hearing this song?
My favorite track on the album is “See What We Can See” which so purely captures the lovely simplicity of childhood adventure. The duet with Stew Peck on “Closer To You” sweetly explores different modes of transportation to get to each other.
The lullaby “Little by Little” closes out the album with its music box instrumentation, as England sings about all the things she loves about her little one and how much of the world they have left to explore together. This song hits home with me, as I love seeing the world through my kids eyes, and even the cities that I know so well look different when I visit them with my children.
The Oklahoma City-based Sugar Free Allstars endeavors to “bring back the funk” in their latest released, the self-titled album Sugar Free Allstars on April 2nd.
The 11 tracks on the album traverse a diverse range of tempos as genres as Boom! (aka Cris Wiser) and Dr. Rock (aka Rob Martin) look to funk, rock and R&B recordings of the 70’s and 80’s for inspiration. Being that this is the era in which I grew up, I related to these songs in a deep, “Step aside kids and let Mommy show you how to get your groove on” kind of way.
One of my favorite things about this album is the clever album listening guide Sugar Free Allstars has included. It identifies their influences for each song as well as things to listen for (nods to artists, certain instruments, etc.), offering an opportunity for both children and adults alike to expand their music listening palette. This insight to their song writing builds a deeper appreciation for their music and creative process.
The album starts off rocking with “Monster Truck,” which Sugar Free Allstars cites Deep Purple, 70’s easy listening and Black Sabbath as an influence. My son would have loved this when he was in his truck phase, and this track will surely be a hit with the preschool circuit. It reminds me of the Riverbottom Nightmare band from Emmitt Otter’s Jugband Christmas with its driving drums, synthesized organs and howling vocals.
The video for this track is pretty freaking cute. Wait, I probably shouldn’t say “cute” with regards to monster trucks, so I’ll say, RAD!
My other personal favorites on the album include “Mr DJ,” “If I Didn’t Have You,” “Grumpopotamus (and the Crankosaurus Rex),” and “Breakdancin’.”
The funky “Mr DJ,” clearly influenced by early Prince recordings, offers solutions for little ones who struggle with bedtime by suggesting they fight the urge to sleep by dancing their pajamas off. The mid-song sermon proposes crazy ideas about what parents do after kids go to bed, a clear contrast to what actually goes on.
The adorable “If I Didn’t Have You” appeals to this New Orleans native, with its Second Line vibe. Guest artist Fred Tackett, who recorded music and toured with Bob Dylan and plays with Little Feat, appears on this track that reminds me of that blues song by Clarence Henry “Ain’t Got No Home.”
If you’re a parent of a little one, you know all too well how quickly a happy kid can turn sour in a heartbeat. That transformation is the basis for the groovy “Grumpopotamus (and the Crankosaurus Rex)” featuring Genevieve Goings from Choo Choo Soul.
I think the Sugar Free Allstars and I had a similar childhood, because “Breakdancin’,” with its references to old school rap, backspins and windmills speaks to me. Now I only need to locate our old slap of linoleum to practice my moves to this track.
Another standout is the cover of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem’s “Can You Picture That?” from the original Muppet Movie. I loved this song as a kid, and this groovy, updated rendition does the original justice.
Other tracks on the album include “I Can See It Now” (exploring the idea of kids explaining what they’ve drawn), “Upside Down Town” (which starts with a great drum beat and includes a tour guide to a unique town), the big sing along “One Verse Song,” the short and sweet barbershop quartet style of “My Dog Pete,” and the closing track “BunnyBot,” featuring Beck keyboardist Roger Manning.
You can dance and groove to your own copy of the Sugar Free Allstars Sugar Free Allstars by preordering before the April 2 release on their website. Check out what Sugar Free Allstars is up to on Facebook and Twitter @SFAS.
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!