Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
Astronauts Love –  Jumpin' Jamie
Little Bit of Time – Like Father Like Son
Ode To Bed – Mo Phillips
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Chewy to Your Han – Recess Monkey
Science of Sleep – The Pop Ups

Jarebear Goes Full 70s With Giant Jelly Bean

Concept CDs can go either way. When everything works, you wind up with a masterpiece like The Who's rock opera, TOMMY. When nothing works, you get, well, the opposite of TOMMY. Come on, guys, work with me here. It's all a matter of personal taste and perception. Even John Lennon did an interview and badmouthed Sgt. Pepper. Even rarer is the conceptual kid's CD. A nifty recent example would be Recess Monkey's HOT AIR.

New to the scene is Austin, Texas garage band Jarebear, with their entry into the fray, THE JOURNEY FOR THE GIANT JELLY BEAN. Minus a press release or any substantive biographical info, what I can say is that Jarebear goes gently down that concept road, taking a right at the fork where King Crimson splits from Pater Gabriel-era Genesis.

GIANT JELLY BEAN follows a boy named Otis, who learns about a mythical giant jelly bean that's supposed to solve all the world's problems. He and his team go on a quest that turns into a voyage of self-discovery, naturally. I'm not giving away too much of the story with that information.

As with any concept CD, the sum is greater than the parts. And THE GIANT JELLY BEAN is certainly no exception. Out of context, the lyrics appear to be two parts The Wiggles, one part Spin Doctors:

We’re meeting new people, we’re trying new food
New courses of action are being pursued
The sky is so blue, the trees are so pretty
It’s really quite different from our dear old city
Here we go, Here we go
Here we go, so don’t be slow

If you've got a hankering for old-fashioned prog rock (look it up) and your kids are in the mood to engage their imaginations, THE GIANT JELLY BEAN could really make your scene, man. Jarebear has targeted its sights on a selective demographic. Doth thee wisheth to maketh the trek, perchance? Or does the idea just give you a mightieth headache? Check the samples on Bandcamp below and free your mind.

JOURNEY FOR THE GIANT JELLY BEAN is available from Jarebear's website, Burger RecordsBandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Monday, May 21, 2018

Sun Is a Star – Like Father Like Son
Dodgeball – Justin Roberts
Goodbye – Hullabaloo
Inkpot – Kepi Ghoulie
Soar  – Mo Phillips
That Laugh – Recess Monkey
The Man Who Built The Moon – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Raise Your Kids' IQ (and Dance Ratio) With the Pop-Ups

The boys are back! If Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake got together to make a children's music CD with an informative theme, I'd bet it would sound a lot like The Pop-Ups' GIANTS OF SCIENCE. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is one of those hot trending educational topics (Why do I seem to be leading with that sentiment so often recently). Brooklyn musicians Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein continue their successful collaboration by getting PhDiggy with it.

When i went to college, I took a lot of notes. It's a definite 180 from learning from The Pop-Ups – it's really difficult to juggle a notebook while you're dancing. Light refraction is the subject for album-opener "Shadow." Guest star Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is on board to encourage listeners to "catch the light."

There's finger-snapping fun with "Time," which informs that "time is not so straight and narrow" with a slight reggae tinge. "Inventors" includes a shout-out to CRISPR. That's a first in any form of music I've heard, including children's music.

"Synthesizer" is self-explanatory, and as Ben put it, "sounds like Devo." As the boys ask, "Are we not synthesized men? Perhaps the most scientifically-grounded tune, "Cave of Wonders," is the furthest stretch, as they bring a "mica disco ball" into play.

I could visually almost imagine the choreography for "How Do We Know," about all the intriguing, sometimes off-color questions that children often ask. An "actual scientist," no really, Dr. Amanda Simson from the University of New Haven, provides a fact break (as opposed to a rap break). "The Science of Sleep" helps inquisitive young minds drift off to sleep (as every dance must come to an end). But when it slumber happens, it's one small step for little minds, one excellent freestyle boogie for the Pop-Ups.

GIANTS OF SCIENCE is available on May 18 from The Pop-Ups' website, Amazon, iTunes, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Here is the Sesame Street video "Magic Letter Elevator" featuring music by the Pop-Ups:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

All in the Family for Vered

I don't remember when my first little brother arrived. I was just under two years old. Same story with the next one. My mother wrote an anecdote in my "baby book" that she passed along a few years ago – After my THIRD baby brother joined the gang, at some point I asked, "When is the next baby coming home?" to which she replied, "That's the last one."

Vered examines the dynamics of family with her new CD, SONGS FOR SISTERS AND BROTHERS. "One Family" delivers the inclusive all-world message, but the other tracks delve into the interpersonal aspects, from excitement upon hearing your family is growing ("You're Gonna Be") to the soulful, bluesy longing for one-on-one contact ("Like It Once Was"). Walter Martin humorously duets on "It'll Be" with insults and wistful enthusiasm, such as "I'll help you blow out all your candles 'cause by then there'll be millions of them" before declaring "It'll be so good to be grown up with you." A kids chorus sings (and whistles) about how everyone's a narcissist sometimes in "Brothers and Sisters."

There's also a view from the parental side. In "Pr Agent," Vered gives a first-person account of succeeding because of – and sometimes despite – her kids. And how those same kids bring moments of pure joy and frustration, just like in every parent-child relationship.

The recent movie "Tully" examines the mental and physical toll of being a full-time, stay-at-home mother. Vered recognizes that after the first child, it's almost impossible to lavish the same amount of attention on all the kids. At which point, it becomes almost astounding when the youngest one suddenly discovers and develops skillsets. As she relates in the song, "Little Bird":

You learn to touch the sky all my yourself
When no one's watching
It's really something.
My little bird, it's like you just need a nest
For when you want to rest.

There are a bunch of special participants on SONGS FOR SISTERS AND BROTHERS, and Vered even credits them as the "Dream Team" on the CD inner sleeve. It's an impressive list of vocalists and instrumentalists who collaborated on a smart, friendly collection of tunes. My brothers may be a little too old to appreciate the sentiments, but my younger son isn't. And maybe even his older brother.

SONGS FOR SISTERS AND BROTHERS is available on May 18 from Vered's website (BabyInTune), iTunes, Amazon, and CDBABY.

Here is Vered and the Babes performing "Hello":

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Friday, May 11, 2018

Brighter Side – Gustafer Yellowgold
Supermoon – Hullabaloo
Smile For Me – David Tobocman
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie
Say Something – Justin Timberlake

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, June 10, 2018

Higher Higher – Justin Timberlake
We're Going Home– Vance Joy
What's Done is Done– Jack White
Cloud Skateboard– Mo Phillips
Chewy to Your Han– Recess Monkey
Countin' On Me (Bison vers)– The Okee Dokee Brothers

Ants Ants Ants Come Marching In

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is one of those hot trending educational topics (Why do I seem to be leading with that sentiment so often recently). Ants Ants Ants take that theme, throw in an appreciation of the Beatles, Harry Nilsson, and the Alan Parsons Project and blend everything into their debut CD, WHY WHY WHY?

Multi-hyphenates Johnny Clay (The Dimes) and Dave Gulick (Derby) have made their mark in the Portland, Oregon and surrounding area, including national commercials, etc. I've written before about how this country houses pockets of darn good children's music that oftentimes burns so fiercely that the recordings permeate the ozone layer and make it back to my corner of the sky. WHY WHY WHY? is one of those discs.

WHY WHY WHY? features a craftsman's dozen (as opposed to a baker's dozen) nature-centric songs, including the Parsonsesque, twangy "I Spy." "Helicopter Leaves" could be Jeff Lynne's idea of an ELO tune for tykes, and isn't even about aircraft – it's about fronds that descend in a circular motion from their plant of origin. The peppy "Ants" is as close to a title track as you're going to get. "Where Does the Moon Go?" has an infectious chorus that dares you not to sing along, in almost-Traveling Wilburys way:

Where do the stars go in the daytime?
Where do they come from every night?
How do they find their way to the same place in the sky?

Ants Ants Ants are not re-inventing the wheel here. Smart, catchy kids pop never goes out of style and is always welcome in my living room (and car). The answer to WHY WHY WHY? is just because because because they can.

WHY WHY WHY? is available on May 18 from Ants Ants Ants website, Soundcloud, iTunes, and Amazon.

Here is the video of their song, "Blue":

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, June 9, 2018

I Love The Night – Gustafer Yellowgold
Man of the Woods – Justin Timberlake
Over and Over and Over – Jack White
My Barn Door Is Open – Red Yarn
Always Ascending – Franz Ferdinand
Keep On Reaching – Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds