Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, April 1, 2016

All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Archaeology – Danny Weinkauf
My Teacher's An Alien – The Bazillions
The Word – Caspar Babypants
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Jelly Beans! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
How Great Can This Day Be – Lori Henriques

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 31, 2016

Other Days – Andrew & Polly
Extraordinary – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Airplanes  – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Done With The Science Fair – The Not-Its!
I Love the Beach – Keith Munslow

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Start Of The End – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Another Good Year – Lori Henriques
Forever Young – Andrew & Polly
Hello Goodbye – Caspar Babypants
It Suits You – Gustafer Yellowgold
Sunshine Blue Skies – Miss Nina & The Jumping Jacks
Best Friend – In The Nick Of Time

Tots Can't Miss Miss Nina's Every Day's Your Birthday

I have a soft spot in my heart for Miss Nina. Her second CD, 2013's SHA DOO BE DOOP, was the first time our son (then 2 1/2 years old) showed an active interest in selecting his own music. He would walk to the cabinet in the living room, carefully open the door, select her CD, turn on the CD/DVD player, put in the disc, and play the first two songs (usually). This month, when I brought home the new CD by Miss Nina and the Jumping Jacks, EVERY DAY'S YOUR BIRTHDAY, even though he is now five, he insisted I play it, despite the presence of two other CDs with more immediate release dates.

Sadly, time marches on and he is aging out of her demographic. Miss Nina records lively, upbeat original tunes (the title track and "DJ in My PJs") and energetic interpretations of "(Silly) Wheels on the Bus" and "Subway" (adapted from the Anastasia Suen/Karen Katz board book). With a three-year-old of her own, Miss Nina has both hands on her target audience, literally and figuratively.

Ably produced by Marc Bazerman (of Baze and His Silly Friends fame), Nina and friends give you a peppy "Freeze Dance," a strummable, hummable "Colors of You," and a motion-activity "Up and Down." On her weekly children's vlog, Nina takes on classics and oftentimes does some re-invention. "Five Little Pumpkins" puts a Halloween spin on the traditional one-at-a-time elimination. "(Silly) Wheels on the Bus" features jumping kangaroos, wiggling spaghetti, and marching soldiers in addition to children, parents, wipers, et al.

When we first heard "Every Hero," my older son thought it was Charity and the Jam Band, who are known for rocking slightly harder for slightly older sprites. But the song that delivered the biggest smile for my youngster was the closing "DJ in My PJs," the logical successor to "My Hula Hoop" from her last CD. It inspired him to jump on his bed and shout "I'm a DJ!" that night at bedtime.

The best thing you can say about any performer is that their passion is contagious. The dictotomy of entertaining the youngest of the young is that they are easy to amuse but you can't alienate the parents by being insufferably cute or infantile. Miss Nina walks that fine line of rousting the fervor of children without rustling the feathers of the elders of their flocks.  EVERY DAY'S YOUR BIRTHDAY is a Brady Bunch-esque romp in the playground that the under-6 set will find enchanting and intoxicating. And it's over in a slim, lean 38 minutes before your caramel macchiato gets cold. That should inspire some jumping jacks.

EVERY DAY'S YOUR BIRTHDAY is available May 6 from Miss Nina's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is one of her latest video song posts, featuring "Roly Poly Caterpillar":

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pj Party – Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
Toothloser – Gustafer Yellowgold
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney
Breakdancin' – Sugar Free Allstars
Grizzly Bear – Red Yarn

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ben's Easter Playlist - Monday, March 28, 2016

Calling All the Kids to the Yard – Cat Doorman
Rest Easy Now – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Animal Kingdom – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Mama Don't Allow – In The Nick Of Time
Kid Of The Week – The Not-Its!
Music is Everywhere – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Upside Down Town – Sugar Free Allstars

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 25, 2016

Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
Dad Is Takin' a Nap  – Keith Munslow
Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
The Bright Side Of Me – Alastair Moock & Friends
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Hold on to Your Dreams – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ben's Playist - Thursday, March 24, 2016

Don't Fence Me In – Andy Z
Sweetest Devotion – Adele
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Alligator Get-Together – Key Wilde And Mr. Clarke
Young at Heart – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Music Is Everywhere With Mista Cookie Jar

After recording and releasing one song every month for more than a year, it would have been easy for Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips to just compile their offerings onto a quick-pressed CD. It would have been easy, but it wouldn't have sat right with Mr. Jar (a.k.a. CJ Pizarro).

Instead, he spent more than six months going back to the drawing board – many of the tunes do make the new CD, MUSIC IS EVERYWHERE. But there are new tracks as well, featuring surf music, rock and roll, big band swing, Motown, as well as CJ's upbeat raps and rhythms. "Young at Heart" is a modern take on Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." If Dan Zanes relocated to the West Coast, he would be proud to write a song like "Hold On to Your Dreams," co-written and performed by Tembra Campbell:

You've got to hold on to your dreams
It's not as hard as it may seem.
It's up to you, you've got the power
Life will open like a flower
You gotta hold on to your dreams.

CJ never loses track of his primary audience – young kids who need a diverse range of musical influences to cultivate their own tastes. When I was a kid (let's not go there for too long), I had school trips to the Philharmonic as well as ballet and theatrical productions. My younger son is getting some of that now but we had to hunt for the Little Orchestra's Lollipops concert series 10 years ago to give our older son a taste of classical music. Thankfully that program thrives to this day. In the meantime, I don't hear a lot of bluegrass and ska on a Selena Gomez or 5 Seconds of Summer CD. But Mista Cookie Jar stretches the boundaries of children's music to make those genres acceptable, palatable, and contemporary.

"Music Is Everywhere" asks kids to live in the moment and wait for that one perfect note in concert. Yes, children's music is the gateway genre that acts as an entree to live performance and interaction with professional artists. As such, CJ emphasizes that there's no wrong way to listen to music, as long as you're excited by the experience. And if the music galvanizes your children enough to seek out videos, concert clips, and perhaps ask if that artist is coming to your area, all the better. MUSIC IS EVERYWHERE started as an ambitious experiment. Although the CD has dropped through numerous outlets, the experiment continues with every new listening.

MUSIC IS EVERYWHERE is available through Mista Cookie Jar's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the video for the new song, "Young at Heart":

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mama – Mista Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips
Water Under The Bridge – Adele
The Start of Things – Alison Faith Levy
Favorite Book – The Bazillions
Danceology – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Can You Picture That? – Sugar Free Allstars
Ground Food – Ratboy Jr.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Rainbow Tunnel – Alison Faith Levy
20 More Dollars – Chibi Kodama
Road Trip – In The Nick Of Time
New  – Paul McCartney
I Can See It Now – Sugar Free Allstars
Hamsterdam – Ratboy Jr.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 21, 2016

All the Pretty Horses – Cat Doorman
Carry a Tune – Recess Monkey
Groove – Lori Henriques
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Monster Truck  – Sugar Free Allstars
Brain Freeze – The Not-Its!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sugar Free Allstars Make Friends and Influence Kids

No band wears their influences on its short sleeves more than the Sugar Free Allstars (SFAs). In fact, there were so many inspirations for their new self-titled CD, SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS that the duo included an "album listening guide" to document them.

The 11 songs on the new collection draw from (yet are not limited to) the affects of Chris "Boom" Wiser and Rob "Dr. Rock" Martin being exposed to Eric Clapton, barbershop quartets, Grandmaster Flash, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, the Muppets, Prince, Black Sabbath, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. I've missed a few dozen more. But the SFAs distill these disparate elements and generate danceable 21st century kid's music from the heartland (Oklahoma, to be precise).

It's always fascinating when musicians release original music, cite who they hear from their perspective, and compare and contrast to what we hear as unbiased, home audiences. For instance, the SFAs reference the Meters for "I Can See It Now," whereas I sensed a strong Leon Redbone vibe. The latest Muppets incarnation on ABC is fighting for its life. But the Paul Williams-penned "Can You Picture That?" is going strong in its fifth decade, if you can believe it. Tom Hanks' directorial debut "That Thing You Do" was not a breakout hit. Yet I put songs from the soundtrack on different tapes over the years. [Fun side facts – Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger ghost-wrote the title track and Katy Perry later covered Fountains' HACKENSACK.] But I digress. If Fountains was still around, they would be proud to call UPSIDE DOWN TOWN one of its own songs.

Diversity has become the linchpin of most programming, counter-programming, and world initiatives directed at young audiences. The SFAs use a slightly different take, calling their third CD the duo's "most ambitious album to date." Wiser and Martin spent four years (between family time and live performances) honing the tracks, which offer as much diversity as your typical Spotify randomizer. The SFAs are drive-by kindie auteurs. The semi-biographical "Monster Truck" depicts the bond of manchild and machine (along with a fantasy interlude with said child and vehicle listening to Air Supply and watching sad movies – no spoilers!).

If anything, it's hard to clamp a label (funky! quirky!) onto a band that morphs its sound from song to song. Wiser's keyboard and Martin's drumming provide a resonant one-two punch behind every number. Similar to Molly Ledford (Lunch Money), you can picture the guys smiling from ear-to-ear as they sing the preposterous "Grumpopotamus (and the Crankosaurus Rex)" with guest vocalist Genevieve Goings (Choo Choo Soul). The SFAs are not a band to look back in anger, except to motivate themselves to get every single listener on their feet. With the Sugar Free Allstars' latest release, that's an ambition worth sharing.

SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS is available on April 2 from the band's website, Amazon, CDBABY, and iTunes.

Here is the debut video from SUGAR FREE ALLSTARS' new CD, for the song "Monster Truck":

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 18, 2016

Ghost Riders in the Sky – Andy Z
Amnesia – 5 Seconds of Summer
DJ All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
The Word – Caspar Babypants
City Of Hills – Frances England
Amazing Day – Coldplay

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 17, 2016

Other Days – Andrew & Polly
Domino Town  – Dean Jones
My Teacher's An Alien – The Bazillions
That Way – Chibi Kodama
Street Life – Frances England
Hello – Adele

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 16, 2016

LA Christmas – Andrew & Polly & Mista Cookie Jar
Hey Everybody! – 5 Seconds Of Summer
T.L.C. – Alison Faith Levy
Sons and Daughters  – The Bazillions
A Head Full Of Dreams – Coldplay
City Don't Sleep – Frances England
Uh Huh – Dean Jones

Monday, March 14, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Mapmaker's Song – Andrew & Polly
All Around the Kitchen – Andy Z
Tomorrow's People – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Hymn For The Weekend  – Coldplay
Explorer Of The World – Frances England
I'm Not the Sharpest Tool – Dean Jones

All the World's A Song for Frances England

Frances England falls smack in the middle of the Venn Diagram of children's musicians/multimedia personnel. Originally a recording artist via accident (a home-recorded CD reached the ears of people who knew people in the biz), she has morphed into the accidental tourist.The role she's well-played for a decade is not done; rather, England has added another brush to her palette.

Her new CD, EXPLORER OF THE WORLD, delves into community and awareness of ones physical surroundings. Many children's musicians create busywork around their music – a hopping song, a wave your arms song, etc. England is more interested with interactivity. The CD was borne from counting people going through their day-to-day lives while wrapped up in their electronic cocoons. Is this what kids should aspire to become when they get older, she wondered. Or is this another avenue for education and musical enlightening?

The two-year process involved more than words and music. England shot innumerable photos in San Francisco and the surrounding area, turning those into family activity books as well. "So much to discover, so much to do," she sings on the album's title track.

EXPLORER OF THE WORLD mines the spirit of San Francisco and delivers a love letter through "My Street," "City of Hills," and "City Don't Sleep," featuring ambient street sounds. Capturing audio is one thing, assembling and decoding it is another. For that task, England brought in two men who had never worked together – ├╝ber-producer Dean Jones and Not Ready for Playtime instrumentalist Dave Winer. The pairing works, as the Burt Bacharach-esque "See What You Can See" rubs shoulders with the percolated drumsticks and horns of "City Don't Sleep." England goes completely meta on "All The Things I Found." During the song, she sings about documenting her process. But it's a song about things she found that constituted the documenting.

Gustafer Yellowgold's Morgan Taylor drops in for "City of Hills," a digital Hallmark card merged with a Google Map laundry list of tourist attractions. "Ballad For a Beatboxer" finds a sweet showcase for England's former nonprofit colleague, Carlos Aguirre. "Sweet" is the all-encompassing word for England's traveling vision on EXPLORER OF THE WORLD. Your eyes may start to tear at the end of the closing tune "Little By Little," but it's not from the dirt in the street, it's from the wind-swept sand high in the hills as you overlook the ocean and a breathtaking city. And a brand-new art and activity volume to ensnare the burgeoning traveler in all youthful adventure-seekers.

EXPLORER OF THE WORLD is available April 1 from Frances England's website, Amazon, and iTunes.

Here is the video for "City Don't Sleep":

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ben's Pi Day Playlist - Monday, March 14, 2016

Crazy Mountain Road – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
This Land Is Your Land – Alastair Moock & Friends
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
My Favorite Sneakers – In The Nick Of Time
Harder To Breathe – Maroon 5
Go Jump in the Water – Keith Munslow

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 11, 2016

Loving Cup – Cat Doorman
The Bullfrog – Red Yarn
I Dreamed I Could Fly – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Favorite Book  – The Bazillions
Take Me Away – Sunshine Collective
Jelly Beans! – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 10, 2016

Thank You for the Box – Andrew & Polly
Everybody Out There – Paul McCartney
Airplanes  – 5 Seconds Of Summer
One After 909 – Caspar Babypants
Give Me Love  – Ed Sheeran
Odd Socks – Dean Jones

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Bile Them Cabbage  – Red Yarn
Turned Out – Paul McCartney
Caught in the Screen – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
The Start of Things  – Alison Faith Levy
The Tale Of The Sun And The Moon – Eric Herman And The Invisible Band
Lego House – Ed Sheeran
Gettin' My Ya Ya's Out – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could

Monday, March 07, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dad Is Takin' a Nap – Keith Munslow
Sourwood Mountain – Red Yarn
Washington, Dc – The Not-Its!
San Francisco – 5 Seconds Of Summer
The City – Ed Sheeran
Super Hero Rock Band – The Bazillions

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Monday, March 7, 2016

It's Only in Your Head – Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips
Poofy – Ratboy Jr.
Permanent Vacation – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Bad Haircut – The Bazillions
The A Team – Ed Sheeran
River Lea  – Adele

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Friday, March 4, 2016

All In A Day – Alastair Moock & Friends
Unwind – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Hey Everybody! – 5 Seconds Of Summer
Mystery – Dean Jones
E.T.  – Katy Perry
Kings & Queens – The Hipwaders

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Here Comes The Sun – Andrew & Polly
Shake a Friend's Hand – Andy Z
The Word – Caspar Babypants
Stay Up Late – Dean Jones
Bionic (feat. Shiz & Lady Asha) – Father Goose
Firework – Katy Perry
Fresh Spokes (Featuring Susan Lapidus) – Hot Peas 'n Butter

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ghostbusters – Andrew & Polly
Hey Jude – Caspar Babypants
That Way  – Chibi Kodama
Cheese World – The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) – Katy Perry
Amistad (Featuring Dan Zanes) – Hot Peas 'n Butter