Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Inter-Boro Funk With the Pop-Ups, Raving With the Salamanders

Ever want to host a dance party for your kids but not want to hire a DJ? Here's a quick solution – subscribe to Amazon Prime Music and stream The Pop-Ups first digital release, THE GREAT PRETENDERS CLUB. Brooklyn's Jason Rabinowitz & Jacob Stein are futuristic guinea pigs for kindie music; boldly going where few artists have dared to travel. You can still purchase a physical CD, but the primary method of distribution for their fourth collection is the Internet giant's attempt to combat Spotify and Pandora.

Ask most adults and they'll tell you that pop-ups (meaning ads) are totally annoying. Ask most teenagers and they'll say pop-ups are for kids (meaning illustrated books with parts that protrude from the pages). Working against that inherent double standard, J & J take their electro-acoustic music and challenge your expectations. Bolstered by a packed video wall featuring tracks from across their recordings, The Pop-Ups want to amuse and work out your children. If the kids learn something in the process, that's they're own fault.

"Bird and Rhino" is kind of a fire prevention song. The primary rhino stomps out fires when he sees and smells them. Dancing is his secondary goal. The narrator of "On the Air" hosts his own imaginary radio program (not a podcast, incidentally), sings songs, and interviews the family dog. I can see my son Matt (approaching 5) graduating to that activity once he gets past re-enacting every live concert he's ever attended, in our living room. Are you and your kids forever losing things around the house? "Treasure Hunter" makes it an adventure. "Animal Birthday Party" disco-fies the typical "party with [insert critter]" concept:

You might say it smells a little unsavory
But I'll celebrate with every animal family
'cause I'm at an animal birthday party.

It's a brave new world for kindie music, with videos, streaming, DVDs, apps, as well as the traditional methods of CDs and LPs (I'm looking at you, Red Yarn). Those who do not embrace technology or at least try to keep in step with the bandwagon may not be here in 5-7 years for the next wave of their audiences. The Pop-Ups are making the leap. In fact, they are encouraging children and families to make the leap with them. Take a listen, embrace the pretend, and leap with eyes open.

THE GREAT PRETENDERS CLUB is available from Amazon Prime Music.

Here is the video for the song "Bird and Rhino" from the Pop-Ups:

Making children's music is serious music that requires serious attention and serious artistry. Yet some of the silliest stuff comes from these intensely serious people. The Salamanders' self-titled debut, THE SALAMANDERS, is chock full of silly. But once you get past that, there's some delightfully thought-out sentiment behind it.

Rambunctious toddlers are on the Salamanders' minds in the lead track, "Please Don't Eat My Guitar." Hands-on experience with a "Brand New Toy" gives the band the opportunity to jam out. The Salamanders make you think there's a thriving kindie music scene in Missoula, Montana – at least when they're making a commotion for audiences. "My Grandma Is a Spy" devolves into a full rave version of "Live and Let Die," which my son Ben (14) identified as a Billy Joel (!) song, mostly due to Joel's recent cover version on the ART OF McCARTNEY CD.

Bandmates Matthew Nord, Andrew Hunt, Brevy Walden, and Antonio Alvarez get to exercise their musical chops on the aptly named "Barefoot Booger Boogie." And the disc wraps with the shuffling "Chickens Go to Hawaii." And honestly, shouldn't every children's CD have a poultry-inspired travelogue? It's hard to grasp an amphibious salamander. These musical Salamanders are looking to grab hold of an audience and, in turn, have that audience declare its allegiance.

It's refreshing to receive children's music CDs from different parts of the country, hear the different perspectives, and share the collective joy. Montana is the fourth largest state but only the 44th in terms of population. Still, that's a lot of children and somebody has to entertain them. However, if the Salamanders seek to move from their natural environment and embark on a larger landscape, perhaps SiriusXM Kids Place is their next destination.

THE SALAMANDERS is available from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video from the band's song, "Please Don't Eat My Guitar":

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