Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, August 1, 2016

Water Under The Bridge  – Adele
King of the World – Weezer
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Long Days & Short Years – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 29, 2016

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Stardust – Chibi Kodama
Say Word  – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 28, 2016

LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Wild  – Chibi Kodama
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Young Soul – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Washington, Dc – The Not-Its!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Grass Is Always Greener  – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
A Head Full Of Dreams – Coldplay
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Secret Superhero – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
This Love – Maroon 5

Quick Hits: Fan-tastic New Video for Red Pants Band, Prolific Schwartz

I know I sound like an old codger when I say something like, "When I was 15." However I feel compelled to do it again right now. " Especially when the new video from Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band was created by 15-year-old Madison Durand from Rhode Island.

Animation teacher Tim Labonte found out about Danny's crowdfunding efforts for RED PANTS BAND (the new album) via They Might Be Giants social media. He offered to help create a lyric video for the upcoming release. In fact, Labonte mentioned a talented student (Durand) who wanted the experience of making a music video.

Now at 15, "back in the day," I had tried my hand at creating short Super 8 videos. They were pretty poor in quality. In fact, when I saw the works by other students in my class, it only emphasized that I should stick to what I knew best – writing. But Durand has technology and talent at her disposal; a lethal combination for such a young person.

Here is her creation, debuting via Danny Weinkauf and the Red Pants Band, for "Only One You":

Stephen Michael Schwartz is nothing if not prolific. He and his band, Parachute Express, have released a dozen albums over the course of 25 years. Now his second solo CD, BUCKET OF WOW! is here. A fast, bouncy jaunt for kids of young ages, Schwartz's music is familiar to anyone who has patronized Gymboree and his song "We The Children" was incorporated into (then) First Lady Hillary Clinton's fight against child abuse.

 Five years ago Stephen and Parachute Express toured China and it left a lasting impression. They continue to make biannual treks across the globe to perform. And "The Panda Bear" is definitely inspired by the experience. The title track is punchy and upbeat, the tandem of "My Rainbow World" and "One Rainbow" describe the color spectrum in vivid detail, and 'I'm Being Followed By the Moon" debunks an "original conspiracy theory" that many youngsters believe.

Matt (5) has only lost his two bottom front teeth and is in constant anticipation of the rest following suit. Stephen demystifies the process on "Losing a Tooth," a duet with a young girl. Three decades and tens of thousands of miles in, Stephen and company are still overwhelmed by the reactions to their music from youthful audiences. That's the underlying theme behind "Bucket of Wow," and wouldn't you like to have one, too?

BUCKET OF WOW! is available from Stephen's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Mapmaker's Song – Andrew & Polly
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Driving Me Crazy – Danny Weinkauf
Laugh With Me – Chibi Kodama

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 25, 2016

Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
You Love You  – Lori Henriques
Picky Eaters – Danny Weinkauf

Friday, July 22, 2016

23 Skidoo's Infinite Moonwalk Through Hip-Hop

There's a vast space between religion and spirituality. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo does a deep exploration of that chasm on his latest CD, INFINITY PLUS ONE. There was a time when the Beastie Boys could sing "Intergalactic" and people flew off their couches to dance. But Asheville boldly goes where no hip-hop artist has gone before.  An entire track (and post-track) for "Tastes Like Space" is devoted to and concepts and sounds found by the Voyager 1 and 2 probes.

Hip-hop for kids is decidedly different from adult contemporary rap (i.e., everything else). The more complex the beats, the more universal the concepts. "My First Multiverse" delves into individuality, using the simple idea that a mirror is just a reflection and that every action can result in a plethora of possibilities. The first video, "Secret Superhero," shows kids in costumes demonstrating their powers but is really about growing up:

I'm a secret superhero
I don't got powers yet
But I wonder what I'm gonna get

Certainly a concept that every kid can relate to, provided on INFINITY PLUS ONE with a rapturous Motown horn section.

It's only a recent development (standard operating procedure for any emerging artform) that hip-hop is incorporating second- and third-generation performers into the tent. Skidoo has co-written songs with his daughter, Saki, who performs again on "Monsters." It's a laundry list of creatures who are just that – fictional beings that are nothing to be afraid of. I've said it before (and even to him) that the best inspiration is seeing somebody your own age doing something that you might want to do. At Kidstock and Symphony Space, I've witnessed young girls go from boppers to slack-jawed statues when Saki goes center stage. In the next decade, I'm sure we'll hear from at least one of them crediting their early exposure to kid-hop to their decision to go into the biz.

Skidoo likes wordplay (who doesn't) and his passion comes through on songs like "Lucktricity" and "Smardi Gras." His vision is fulfilled by 40 musicians including an entire New Orleans brass band. To list a few would omit many more, suffice to say that the mission is accomplished – man has hip-hopped on the moon. CD closer "Long Days and Short Years" is a revved-up southern rock and rap track that celebrates everything that comes between the happiness and the tears.

Any CD that cleverly gives equal footing to Carl Sagan and James Brown wins points for originality and 23 Skidoo does not skimp on extras – INFINITY PLUS ONE comes with a trippy 13 bonus tracks (mostly instrumentals so the kids can kick out their own jams). The final "Track 23" (as least that's what came up in GraceNote) is all space noise. There's even a secret code if you hang in there. So keep your eyes to the skies and move your feet in time with the music. Kid-hop is Skidoo's religion and you just might be converted.

INFINITY PLUS ONE is available from Secret Agent 23 Skidoo's website, Amazon and iTunes.

Here is the video for the new song, "Secret Superhero":

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 22, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
She Looks So Perfect – 5 Seconds of Summer
Botany – Danny Weinkauf
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 21, 2016

Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Forever Young  – Andrew & Polly
Good Old Times – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Road Trip – In The Nick Of Time
Favorite Book – The Bazillions
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Only One You – Danny Weinkauf

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Look At Those Clouds – Danny Weinkauf
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
This Love – Maroon 5
Cow Cow Yippee – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Eyes on the Prize – Cat Doorman
Fourth Day Of July – Red Yarn

Get Up & Dance With Danny & Red Pants Band

Danny Weinkauf knew it was time for something different. Sure, he was the longtime bass player for They Might Be Giants. Absolutely, he had produced an acclaimed first solo CD for kids. But now came the next evolution – front man for his own ensemble, the Red Pants Band. And what better way to kick off the celebration then with a CD entitled RED PANTS BAND?

Oh, all the pieces fell into place. Beach Boys musical director Scott Totten signed on, as did Staten Island's Tina Kenny Jones. And guest vocalists? Don't get me started – from his own son, Kai Weinkauf ("Picky Eaters") to Robin Goldwasser ("Love Is in the Air").

The songs are delightfully goofy ("This Dog's Best Friend") to Bryds-style fanciful ("Look at Those Clouds"). "Groovy Red Pants" sounds like a Fountains of Wayne/That Think You Do 60s throwback.  Danny throw in a little science as well, continuing a trend he started with his contributions to TMBG's kid discs. "Botany" Admittedly, the Johns seem to have cooled on the genre. They've ceded the playground to Danny, who is ready, willing, and able to populate the place with power-pop pleasures.

Like Chuck Folds' snarky Big Bang Boom, the Red Pants Band go under deep cover. They are not just a "for kids" band, they are singing from the perspective "for kids." That is no more clearly evidenced than in "Eyes in the Back of Her Head":

I tried to sneak a cookie
Wiped all my crumbs away.
But when I start to smile, 
She says "No more snacks for you today."

A 15-year tenure with a band is a remarkable feat, but that's how long Danny has been associated with TMBG. Considering that TMBG have logged more than 30 years, it's understandable that Danny would be itching to stretch his legs – and it takes mighty big pantaloons to get out from under that ginormous legacy. Belted or with suspenders, the Red Pants Band are just the ticket.

RED PANTS BAND is available from Danny's website, Amazon, iTunes, and CDBABY.

Here is the video for Danny's song, "Champion of the Spelling Bee":

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 18, 2016

The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
River Lea – Adele
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
The Great Divide – The Okee Dokee Brothers
Bop Bodiop! – Cat Doorman
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 15, 2016

Wake Up – Red Yarn & Morgan Taylor
Permanent Vacation – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Water Under The Bridge  – Adele
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
To and Fro – Cat Doorman
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sweetest Devotion – Adele
Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Airplanes – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Oh Island in the Sun – Aaron Nigel Smith
So Gazed Upon – Cat Doorman
My Teacher's An Alien – The Bazillions

Kindie Quick Hits: Funkinships & Cat Doorman, Brady Rymer Video

War does terrible things, especially for the survivors. How's that for an inspirational opening for a children's music review? Iraq War vet Derek McGee turned to philanthropy upon his return to civilian life, volunteering on the Mystic Whaler on the Hudson River. After hooking up with professional musician Charlie Chamberlain (also through the environmental education program), the duo transformed Derek's free-flowing original lyrics into compositions that became an ensemble – Funkinships was launched.

The first CD, POST FOLK ABSURDIST, promises that kids can "be a little weird, there's nothing wrong with that." Or so they sing on "The Platypus And Steve Buscemi." Um, the buscemi is a fish. I told you, they're a little silly. The ten tunes include "Nightmare On The Kids Menu" and the instructional "If You Cant Sing Well Sing Loud."

The Funkinship crowd stays true to the seas, with "The Great Whale Ball," "Sea Legs," and "The Shad And The Eel" completing the nautical sound. For kids who seek a seafaring treat, there's more ship than funk. But – ah, they point out the name can be subdivided into "Fun-kinships," which is exactly what Derek and Charlie and company have formed. You like your friends? You like music? You like the share? You do the math.

POST FOLK ABSURDIST is available from Funkinships web site, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Cat Doorman intended to release semi-regular EPs as she produced new music. Well, that was more than one year ago and the second EP, BOP BOPIOP! is now here.

A co-production from Cat (Julianna Bright and husband Seth Lorinczi, accomplished collaborator with Modest Mouse and others), BOP BODIOP! is a mashup of folk and funk, with horns and guitars and doubled vocal harmonies from Cat. The common themes are originality, creating things, and having fun adventures. As Cat sings on "To and Fro":

In all that’s good and green that’s where we make the scene
Cartwheeling through the grass like a cartwheeling machine
You bring the ball and I’ll, I’ll bring the game
Oh, I’m so glad we came

Usually the problem with an EP is that you get all hopped up and then it's over. But Cat uses the shorter medium as an opportunity to explore a particular message. The songs on this sampler are different than CALLING ALL THE KIDS TO THE YARD (her 2015 RP). Now, does she produce a third EP or build enough "surrounding" track to expand into a full CD? That's the beauty of digital music; she can do either or neither. And between us, I prefer BOP BODIOP! to Kidz Bop any day.

Grab BOP-BODIOP! from Cat Doorman's website, iTunes, or Bandcamp.

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could recently put out a new CD, PRESS PLAY. The second video is now live, bringing the psychedelic 60s back for the title track. It's straight from the Monkees, right down to the wigs. Check it out here:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Bile Them Cabbage  – Red Yarn
Mom (feat. Kelli Trainor) – Meghan Trainor
Hammer – Aaron Nigel Smith
Uh Huh – Dean Jones
Laugh With Me – Chibi Kodama

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Don't Stop – 5 Seconds of Summer
NO – Meghan Trainor
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.
One  – Aaron Nigel Smith
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 11, 2016

Hello – Adele
A Mapmaker's Song – Andrew & Polly
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
King of the World – Weezer
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Loving & Kind – Aaron Nigel Smith

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 8, 2016

Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
Your Happy Place – Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam
Right Side of the Bed – Ratboy Jr.
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Airplanes  – 5 Seconds Of Summer

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Voodoo Doll – 5 Seconds of Summer
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
People Watching – Dean Jones
Boredinary – Chibi Kodama

Kindie Quick Hits: Grin and Bear It, Vids from 123 Andres and Recess Monkey

Songwriter Dave Kinnon believes in saving for a rainy day. Musically, that is. His latest project, Grin Brigade, brings together 24 singers, 13 musicians, and six producers across two continents for a CD, CRAZY WITH HAPPINESS.

Twenty-six songs cover a gamut of familiar topics. The shifting lead vocals give the impression that there's a factory line of people checking in, nailing their parts, and heading back to the outside world. The material, which Kinnon culled over the years, delivers some basic messages, such as "Wake Up in America":

When I wake up in America,
I see my neighbors there
With every kind of clothes and shoes,
Hats and skin and hair,
Every strange belief and custom,
Scores of songs from who knows where.
When I wake up in America,
Our stories fill the air.

Contributing artists include Lori Petty, Randy Sharp, and new Three Dog Night singer David Morgan.  You won't be surprised by the songs on CRAZY WITH HAPPINESS but you also won't be disappointed. Even the press release describes the CD as "a wild jumble of songs about a whole mess of things." Dave and company cover a lot of ground in nearly 80 minutes. You can sing along or just listen to the tunes. Would that be so crazy?

CRAZY WITH HAPPINESS is available from Dave's website, and iTunes.

Recess Monkey has delivered the latest video from their new Amazon Music CD, NOVELTIES. One of the most famous, elusive creatures in history comes to life in "Sweaty Yeti"!

123 Andres (Andrés Salguero) continues to promote his new bilingual music CD, ARRIBA ABAJO! with two videos (English and Spanish) for the same song. Here is "La Semilla," followed by "The Seed":

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
By The Light – Red Yarn
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter
Don't Fence Me In – The Okee Dokee Brothers
L.A. Girlz – Weezer
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Do You Talk To Yourself – Dean Jones
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions

Monday, July 04, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

River Lea  – Adele
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Permanent Vacation – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions
Humans Are Still Evolving – Dean Jones
Wild  – Chibi Kodama

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 4, 2016

Other Days – Andrew & Polly
The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
My Teacher's An Alien – The Bazillions
The Word – Caspar Babypants
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones
A Head Full Of Dreams – Coldplay

Friday, July 01, 2016

"Dreams" Keeping Up Dean Jones

Dean Jones is ubiquitous. I mean, he produces just about everyone who's anyone in the kindie biz (I don't dare even start a list for fear of missing someone). Now he's gone back to the recording board and released a new solo offering – IN MY DREAMS. Jones' Dog On Fleas group seems to be turning into his E Street Band; there when he needs them, but otherwise he's got his finger paints in lots of projects.

IN MY DREAMS is a pretty accurate description for this dreamlike assortment of tunes. "Do You Talk To Yourself" is what we've been saying to our son Ben for years. "In My Dreams I Have A Dog" is a list by a pet-longerer, who manages to work Danger Mouse and Modest Mouse into his wish list. "People Watching" deconstructs the art and importance of reading the emotions and expressions of others. It's also about as close to Paul Simon as Dean Jones gets. "Monkey C Monkey" harkens back to Harry Nilsson. In fact, IN MY DREAMS seems like a throwback to the 1970s, when artists would put out an eclectic collection of songs every so often.

The rockingest tunes may be "Feline" and "What Kind Of Fruit," but then again, there are not many guitars floating through the ether on IN MY DREAMS. There are keyboards and steel pedal drums and lots of echo. Jones is very invested in silly things and if your kids like silly, he's your Dean. The CD front cover depicts a "Where the Wild Things Are" child with his menagerie, illustrated by Giselle Potter, while fruit-headed children dance on the back cover. It's fanciful, flighty, and fun and firmly in line with the music.

Jones says he wrote all the songs while walking in the woods with his dog and there's no reason to doubt him. Strange that the dog does not receive co-writing credits on any of the tracks, though. But then again, on the Talking Heads-esque, "Humans Are Still Evolving," he sings:

I know it's coming soon
We're gonna be more peaceful.
We've got to get rid of that caveman brain.

With IN MY DREAMS, Grammy-winning Jones does not set the kindie on its head. Rather, the CD is a playdate inside a child's imagination, with "Swiss Cheese Angels" and "Fly Like A Bird" wafting out like sonic waves. You can't cage imagination and Jones takes young listeners soaring, time and time again. Are you going to be the fuddy duddy who clips those wings?

IN MY DREAMS is available from the Dog on Fleas website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the song, "What Kind of Fruit":

Leeds Sings Bilingually (English, Hebrew) at Sunny NYC Show

The boys and I continued our June 30 "two-for-Thursday" music trek after stopping by my office for a bathroom break, visit with Grandpa, some much-needed air conditioning, and a lunch stop.

We headed for the subway and arrived at Union Square Park in plenty of time for Joanie Leeds' afternoon set for "Summer in the Square," courtesy of PJ Library and the 14th Street Y. With the temperatures starting to rise (settling in the low 80s), I directed the kids to a park bench in the shade and handed them bottles of water. "When are we going?" they asked every few minutes. But I made them tough out 15 minutes of inactivity to recharge their batteries.

The 30-minute performance included Joanie singing a number of acoustic songs (in English and Hebrew, which surprised many in the multi-ethnic crowd) and a PJ Library storytime led by Rabbi Shira Koch Epstein of "Baxter, The Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher." The audience skewed heavily towards 5-and-under (naturally, since teens don't normally gravitate towards these activities). But they were engaged and enthusiastic and got more into the "jumping and motioning" after the reading, when it's usually the opposite.

There were a number of Y and PJ Library staffers on hand to sing the Jewish choruses along with Joanie and Rabbi Epstein. You can see in the videos that some of the kids made attempts to join in. Music truly does smooth over cultural differences, as we saw earlier in the day with Father Goose and his Jamaican and Island-tinged tunes.

Later that night, rather than ask about upcoming concerts, Matthew informed me that our next music outings are Recess Monkey (July 17 in Yonkers) and Kidstock on Long Island (August 21 in Port Washington). I explained that I shot many videos from the two Thursday shows to create a "summer concert" DVD for him and his older brother. "Good," he replied, yawning. "Maybe you will film five Recess Monkey songs." Don't rush me, kid.

The "Summer in the Square" program continues throughout July on Thursdays at 2 pm (Joanie returns on 7/7).