Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 19, 2019

Clown Shoes – Ratboy Jr.
A Girl With Superpowers – Story Pirates
Peace Be To All – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Rock Island Line (Featuring Billy Bragg) – Dan Zanes & Friends
Stumble Into You – Jack Forman
Taco Tuesday – The Lucky Band

Quick Hits: Sharon & Bram's Farewell Songs, SaulPaul's Park Rec 2 Step Video Contest

Twenty years is a long time to do anything, let alone children's music. But Canada's Sharon Hampson, Bram Morrison and Lois Lillenstein gained much fame and performed around the world. Josh Lovelace made sure to include a shout out to them as inspirations for his children's recordings.

After Lois retired from performing in 2000, Sharon and Bram kept going as a duo – and are now heading into their Retirement Tour after another 20 years on the road. To celebrate this milestone, they have released four new tunes, all written by Sharon's late husband, Joe. Now this is getting pretty downbeat but the songs themselves are mostly upbeat – "The Hug Song," "Different," a paean to diversity, and "The Colour Song," featuring Colin Mochrie of "Who's Line Is It Anyway?" fame.

The one real stunning message song is "Talk About Peace," which has as frank a discussion about politics as you're likely to hear directed at kids:

Well, they've got enough equipment to destroy the world and everything that's in it.
They way I've got it figured, it'll take a little while, about 25 or 30 minutes.
Seems funny to me that when you talk about peace, well, you might be suspected of crime.
And that the people trying hardest to save the world have lived here the shortest time.

Sharon & Bram are finishing up their final tour dates this week, but plan to continue to record new singles and be involved in more children's media projects.

Sharon & Bram's new songs are available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, and Google Play.

He hasn't been around quite as long as Sharon & Bram, but SaulPaul has a contest for the month of July revolving around his song "Park Rec Two Step."In partnership with the National Recreation and Parks Association, SaulPaul is promoting the "Park Rec Two Step Challenge" to encourage kids to get out and about into the national parks this summer. Watch the video (below) for more information. Submit videos of your kids, their friends, and your summer campers or family visiting local parks or recreation centers and doing the Park Rec Two Step for a chance to win weekly prizes of $100 Amazon gift cards (well, there are prizes left on July 22 and July 29).

Send your videos here by July 29. Use the hashtags #ParkRecTwoStepChallenge and #GameOnJuly on social media (make sure the posts are marked public. Did I mention that the Grand Prize winner gets a $250 Amazon gift card and will appear in the official Park Rec Two Step video with SaulPaul? I guess I should have!

Here's the video where SaulPaul explains the Park Rec Two Step contest:

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Trump: A Racist Down to His Shin Spurs (Opinion)

Donald Trump lied this week (no surprise) and said he doesn't have a racist bone in his body.

Much like cancer, racism is tough to beat. You have to be committed to eradicating it from your body. And there's always the chance that it will return, when you least expect it.

I've been a racist. I've said racist things. Hell, I even won the opportunity to appear on the Howard Stern Show as part of their 2002 "Meanest Listener Contest" by intentionally using the N-word. Am I proud of that accomplishment? In retrospect, it's an experience I will always remember. But now there's an asterisk.

I don't consider myself a racist now. I didn't consider myself a racist then. Even when I was being bullied as a young teenager and switched from public school to a private school. That was when I actually had that "my best friend is a black guy" phase. But I didn't walk around boasting "black kids drove me out of my school but I don't hold it against them!!" The situation might have hampered my development as a member of society, teaching me to hate people who didn't look like me. But it didn't.

What has happened over the past 20 years? The culture changed. Standards changed. Social media happened. Activists culled through decades and centuries of institutional racism and called people on their shit. And you could either accept that racism existed – and adapt – or you could deny and bang your head against the wall.

That's what Donald Trump is doing. The Presidency is a mantle some people are not immediately worth of holding. They grow into it, by admitting that they've made mistakes and their previous views might be wrong for the nation. But that's not Trump. His position is that he never makes mistakes – any mistakes are made by people underneath him, or wrong information, or fake news, or (when he said there were airports in the 1800s) a busted TelePrompter.

Trump is 72 years old. He has not evolved. He refuses to evolve. He wants a nation of followers – a dictator with rallies of goose-stepping minions – who agree with his beliefs, in lockstep. Witness politicians like Steve Scalise baldly lying and saying the GOP never disrespected Obama the way the Democrats are "disrespecting" the current racist President. This is such a laughable claim, from the rep who screamed "you lie" during an Obama "State of the Union" speech to an open letter that Republicans wrote to Iran to say Obama didn't represent the United States (!) during nuclear negotiations.

Have a I completely changed? Am I a totally new person, never thinking or saying something that can be construed as racist? That's not for me to say. I'm different than I was five years ago, more different than 10 years ago, and definitely different than 30 years ago.

Trump? Not so much. He was a racist slumlord in the 1970s when he and his father (who attended a Nazi rally in Queens) settled a housing lawsuit with the FBI – refusing to admit any wrongdoing, of course. He was a racist in 2017 when he said there were good people "on both sides" at Charlottesville. To deny Trump's racism is to deny your own racism. See it, own it, grow from it. Trump will never do that. America must see that, own that, and grow with a post-Trump government.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants
Cement Dude – Story Pirates
Dirt – Ratboy Jr.
Hanukkah Rocks – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
I Spy – Ants Ants Ants
Inside I Shine – Danny Weinkauf
That's My Style – The Bazillions

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, July 15, 2019

Anything Can Be A Hat – Ratboy Jr.
Chain Reaction – Brady Rymer & The Little Band That Could
Disco Hippo – Caspar Babypants
The Great Wallaby Adventure – Story Pirates
(Laughing in the) Pizza Rain – The Shake Ups
Stars – Ants Ants Ants
Stick Up Stand Up – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Quick His: New Videos from Thunder & Sunshine and Ants Ants Ants

There's nothing worse than being stuck inside on a rain-soaked afternoon. Or is that just an over-reaction? The New York-based Thunder and Sunshine delivers an opposing viewpoint with their song (and video) celebrating the quiet pleasures of a "Rainy Day."

The brainchild of longtime area musician Esther Crow, the band's origins are simple –have a child, decide to create material for them. She surrounded herself with a group of like-minded performers and viola, a band was christened. You can buy their debut CD, THIS IS THUNDER AND SUNSHINE, from their website.

The band is playing in Union Square Park on Thursday, July 11 at 11 am.

Here is the titular tune in question. "Rainy Day" has a heavy '60s Mamas and Papas vibe to it, but the kids won't know that:

Ants Ants Ants continue the video output for their high concept release, THE ROBOT EP. You can buy the EP on July 19 from their website, Amazon, or Apple Music.

The band's performance "Live from the Rumpus Room" on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live is airing this weekend (July 12-14). Check the website for times.

Listen to the song on Spotify. Here is the kaleidoscope-delic video for the song, "Dance, Robot, Dance!"

Monday, July 08, 2019

Story Pirates Turn Bright Ideas Into Singalongs

Comedy and music go together like nails and wood. You hammer one into the other. Pound a little too hard and you can hurt yourself. Don't go "all in" and everything falls apart. Since 2004, kindie improv group The Story Pirates have donned their tool belts and entertained kids with skits and songs based on audience suggestions.

Over time, the Pirates have branched out from live performing into podcasts (all ideas still derived from submissions) and then into CDs – the second of which, BACKSTROKE RAPTOR, has been unleashed on an audience seeking new avenues of yuks and aw shucks.

The first single, "The Wizard Who Could Just Go Poof," was originally written by a five-year-old. There's a rap by Nimene Sierra Wureh (with Lin-Manuel Miranda guest-starring as the dragon), the song breezes by with the moral being "confidence and persistence pay off." And the backbeat is provided from Johann Pachelbel's Canon. Other tunes include "A Girl With Superpowers," about a lass who needs to defeat an enemy (another dragon) to graduate to superhero status and the frenetic and totally fictional "A Hamster's Workday."

The title track, "Backstroke Raptor" is a complete B-52s throwback, with dual female harmonies and a Fred Schneider-esque dinosaur interjecting his lines. "The Great Wallaby Adventure" is a calypso-themed geography homework lesson. Album closer "Dreaming Sheep" asks an age-old question, with a Lumineers call-out of "Bah hey":

What do dreaming sheep dream about
When the sun is gone and the stars come out
Sheep can dream about being in school
Writing with pencils like the children do

The power of good storytelling is in the retelling. Kids are notorious for wanting to hear and re-hear the same stories again and again, for reassurance and bonding. The Story Pirates have crafted a collection of 11 kid-inspired story-songs that sound as good the next time you hear them. And that's straight from the mouth of an eight-year-old.

BACKSTROKE RAPTOR is available from the Story Pirates' website, Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the YouTube song video of the group's tune, "A Girl With Superpowers":

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Friday, July 5, 2019

Backstroke Raptor – Story Pirates
Even When.... – Ratboy Jr.
Inside I Shine – Danny Weinkauf
It's A Wonderful Life – Kepi Ghoulie
Lazy Boy – Franz Ferdinand
Saturday Sun – Vance Joy

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Finally – Franz Ferdinand
Handle With Care – Like Father Like Son
Lean on Me – Howie D
Stumble Into You – Jack Forman
What's Done is Done – Jack White
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie

Monday, July 01, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, July 2, 2019

El Corazon – The Lucky Band
Flexible Brain – Ratboy Jr.
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
#Goals – Jack Forman
The Me I'm Meant to Be – Howie D
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions
You Can Get It If You Really Want – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Quick Hits: New Stuff from Suzi Shelton and Ants Ants Ants

Last year, I embarked on a new chapter in my reviewing – joining the staff of GeekDad. The first CD I chose to review was Suzi Shelton's HAND IN HAND. This was after I passed on two releases I felt were not "up to the standard" of what I should be recommending.

Now Suzi has released a video for the song "Raindrop" from the album. Directed by Bryan Berrios, the song features simulated rain and real smiling children.

You can download the song from Apple Music. And watch the video here:

Ants Ants Ants, the melodic duo (or trio) that hails from Oregon, have released the four-song THE ROBOT EP, which harkens back to concept albums of old. Titles of the tracks are 'Robot, Robot," "Dance, Robot, Dance!," a robot suite (think kindie ELO), and "Robot" reprise.

Antsters Johnny Clay, Dave Gulick and Nat Johnson were inspired by Schoolhouse Rock and Harry Nilsson and their influences and fingerprints are all over THE ROBOT EP. Their goal is to create and demystify the concept of robotry, from inventing an artificial individual in the opening track, wondering if he dreams, and celebrates his learning some dance steps. They boil it all down into less than 12 minutes – certainly less ponderous than a King Crimson or Genesis album from the 1970s.

It's always fun when you play "guess the reference" with a new release, then read the press materials and it's a match or even better. Ants Ants Ants likes the good stuff and in return, they craft some fun new music for their young audiences. Find your inner robot and dance along.

THE ROBOT EP is available on July 19 from Ants Ants Ants website, Apple Music, and Spotify.

Here is the video for the song, "Robot, Robot":

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Cowboy Andy and Salamanders' Spring for New Music

What's in the water in Montana? More to the point, around Missoula, home of kindie's own Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders? For Toy Story fans who remember Andy as the kid and Woody as the cowboy, it's a new morsel added to the "Salamanders" nomenclature. But it's the same brand of infectious fun from the western badlands.

Recently rebranded with frontman Andrew Hunt, the band's new PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR continues the dual messages of "fun" and "for everyone." If you've ever wondered how to get an Iggy Pop song onto children's radio, Andy has cracked that nut with a cover of "The Passenger," complete with sound effects and Andy keeping his shirt on. Fun fact: David Bowie sang backup vocals on the original tune. Not on the Salamanders' version, but your kids won't mind and neither will you.

"The Letter Why" asks and answers many common questions from youngsters, including "Why do I have to do what you say?" and "Why do songs always have to rhyme?" The instrumental "Already Great" comes with the lyrics on the CD sleeve (sorry, song downloaders). And you can use them to translate the Spanish version, "Tu Eres Lo Más Preciado," which is also on the release:

But you, my little one, you are not to blame.
And if you hear someone, who speaks with anger or hate
Remember, my child, you don't need to change.
Because deep inside, you're already great.

Cowboy Andy and crew look for different ways to interact with their audience and PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! is more than the typical call and response CD. There's storytelling ("Mom Only Counts To Three"), characters and comedy sketches ("Bowl Of Eggs" and "Countdown"), and just plain rocking out ("Snow!"). Kids across the country are not much different from yours and mine, the band sings, and that goes not just for Montana and the whole U.S., but this whole crazy world. PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! and join the amphibian merrymaking.

PUT YOUR ARMS IN THE AIR! is available from Cowboy Andy and the Salamanders' website, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the video of the band performing the title track, "Put Your Arms In the Air!":

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ben's Graduation Playlist - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Anything For You My Love – Caspar Babypants
Cloud Skateboard – Mo Phillips
Clown Shoes – Ratboy Jr.
Dozen Good Reasons – Danny Weinkauf
The Grasshopper – The Shake Ups
The Letter Why – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Taco Tuesday – The Lucky Band

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Quick Hits: New Videos from Pointed Man Band, Ants On a Log

Dan Elliott's Pointed Man Band has released the first video for "Go!," a song from their new CD, AMONGST THE TALL TREES. Filmed, produced, and animated by Portland filmmaker Ben Popp (Noiseonfilm), the video enhances the dreamlike quality of the tune with children frollicking amongst illustrated and actual trees.

View "Go" for yourself and find the CD at Pointed Man Band's website:

Ants on a Log continue to challenge children with their music and educational lyrics. The video for "Air and Space" from their CD, CURIOUS: THINK OUTSIDE THE PIPELINE! is just out. And here it is! With dancing sock puppets!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Anything Can Be A Hat – Ratboy Jr.
Friendship Burrito – The Shake Ups
Helicopter Leaves – Ants Ants Ants
Me And You – Caspar Babypants
Mom Only Counts To Three – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Thank You For Being You – Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 17, 2019

Disco Hippo – Caspar Babypants
New Pair Of Shoes – The Bazillions
One – Aaron Nigel Smith
Put Your Arms In The Air – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver
What Kind Of Fruit – Dean Jones

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Quick Hits: 123 Andrés Teaches Alphabet, New Little Miss Ann Video

Nobody remembers the first time they heard the "Alphabet Song," but everybody knows it. It's just ingrained in world culture, something that transcends language barriers. 123 Andrés, comprised of the husband-wife team of Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, don't cover the Alphabet Song on their new CD, CANTA LAS LETRAS, but it's not really missed.

Crafted as a musical learning tool for children to learn letters and letter sounds in Spanish, CANTA LAS LETRAS focuses on cheerful rhythms and melodies. The CD resulted from the partnership between 123 Andrés and curriculum designer Benchmark Education Company. The songs and their accompanying videos will be used in dual-language classrooms across the country this fall. So prepare yourself for more than a little repetition, as the 26 basic tracks all start the same way. "Hola Christina...." "Hola, Andrés..."

The 38 tracks (yes, 38 Spanish tracks) teach each individual letter, soft and hard letter sounds (C and G) as well as diagraphs and consonant blends. For basic reading and instructional purposes, 123 Andrés are right there to provide a friendly, comfortable lesson plan. As opposed to some other recent kid's music from Nathalia and Alina Celeste, CANTA LAS LETRAS is not really a bilingual release – this hour-plus of music and alphabet is strictly Spanish, so plan accordingly.

CANTRA LAS LETRAS is available from 123Andrés' website, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Little Miss Ann (and friend Amy D) are back with a new video for "The Senses Song," which teaches children about each of the five senses (as well as some alphabet letters that correspond to each sense):

I hear, I hear with my ears.
So many things to hear, start with the letter M
Like music and mama's boys, mockingbirds and melodies
Come listen with me.

It's been a few years since the last Little Miss Ann CD, and this track may be a hint of things to come. "The Senses Song" was guided by the steady hand of über-producer Dean Jones, so you're guaranteed good sound quality.

Here is the video for Little Miss Ann and Amy D's "The Senses Song":

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Scooby Snacks All Around for The Shake Ups

Some people think cartoons are for kids. Never mind that The Simpsons is the longest-running show in prime time television, and that if you've watched it continually, you could start as a toddler and now be considered middle aged.

The Shake Ups, on the other hand, have fully embraced their inner cartoon-loving spirits. Although the band formed in 2008, it wasn't until 2013 that their passion overcame their musical inhibitions. Listen, name one other band that's recorded four full-length albums devoted to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Their latest release, MEDDLING KIDS, shows a lot of love to Hanna-Barbera's seminal series, SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? as evidenced by the title track, a cover of the theme song, and "Mystery, Incorporated," which runs down the characteristics of each of the Scooby Gang. But wait, there's more, including peppy pop tunes about He-Man and She-Ra ("By the Power of Grayskull" and the more acoustic "For the Honor of Grayskull"). Shaggy even gets a tender ballad about his culinary prowess, "Cosmic Sandwiches":

You would shake his hand, but he's too sublime
With butter he can cut like a hot knife
Caught all Pokemon using a landline
He can swim on land so now I must remind you
Of course you know who I mean
The one with stubble, in green

The Shake Ups are not afraid to stir some ridiculous notions into their mix. "Robot Arm" describes what life would be like with mechanical appendages. You may think purple, but no, the song title is "(Laughing in the) Pizza Rain." And the chorus of "Friendship Burrito" declares, "I'll never let you go, my little burrito."

It takes dedication and a straight face to deliver music this deliriously proud of its origins. MEDDLING KIDS is the right sort of festive bombast that Scooby-Doo deserves, as the show celebrates its 50th (!!!) anniversary in 2019. The Gang has outlived Casey Kasem (who provided the original voices for Shaggy and Scooby) and its indelible legacy includes the cliché catch phrase ("And I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you.... meddling kids"). To the contrary, the Shake Ups happily get away with it.

MEDDLING KIDS is available from The Shake Ups' websiteApple Music, CDBABY, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song, "Meddling Kids":

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Jessa Campbell and the Saplings Feel the World

There's a fine line between precocious and precious. Musicians with a Message (that's a capital M) have to tread lightly to avoid turning off kids or alienating parents who suspect an agenda. Portland's Jessa Campbell and the Saplings want to be your conservation-loving friends on their new album, CAN YOU FEEL IT. Like the kid who brings full-size cupcakes and goodie bags for his school birthday party, they just need to try a little less hard.

CAN YOU FEEL IT started as a commissioned project from Oregon's "Wonders of Nature" class at the Village Home learning center, which provides curriculum for homeschooling families. There's definitely an alternative feel to the music, led by the glorious lead vocals and harmonies of the title track. Campbell's career spans Talking Heads tribute bands to opera to theatrical pop. Now she's taking the plunge into the two-foot-tall section of the musical community with these nine tunes.

Nature is all around us, and music as well. On such numbers as "How I Love You Sun" and the doo-wop tinged "Water Worth," you don't hear Campbell breaking a sweat. But the science-themed "Waltz of Trillium and Ant" is a mouthful and you can hear the gears grinding on "Fractals." The band does better on "Shadow Doo Dah," (a reworking of "O Susanna") and the countrified "The Great Happening." A highlight is the steel pedal guitar anthem/lullaby "Goodnight Pacific Northwest," which closes the album and makes smart use of simple, comforting repetition:

Goodnight little one
Goodnight, sleep child
Time to dream, time to sleep
Just like me
I'll be sleeping

CAN YOU FEEL IT brought forth memories of San Francisco's Charity and the JAMBand, who have promoted similar causes and sentiments for more than 15 years. At times they have sidestepped the same obstacles. It's a balancing act but then again, many adults find ourselves caught up in the conflicts between personal freedoms and the stifling policies of the current administration. Jessa Campbell and the Saplings know there's a big world out there; they're hoping your family wants to go play outside.

CAN YOU FEEL IT is available on June 7 from Jessa Campbell and the Saplings' website, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Here is the video for the song, "How I Love You Sun":

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Monday, June 3, 2019

How Lucky We Are – Justin Roberts
Little Bit of Time – Like Father Like Son
Put Your Arms In The Air – Cowboy Andy And The Salamanders
Fly Like A Bird – Dean Jones
Friendship Burrito – The Shake Ups
In My Nintendo – Jack Forman

Friday, May 31, 2019

Quick Hits: New Videos from the Oot n' Oots and Jessa Campbell

Hi! Hey! The Oot n' Oots have debuted a new video for the title track of their 2018 children's music release, Electric Jellyfish Boogaloo. It's like having a kid's party in your living room or your car or wherever you play music for your young uns. Anyway, here it is!

Jessa Campbell and the Saplings are about to launch their latest children's music release, CAN YOU FEEL IT? Get ready for a mix of ecology, psychology, and vibeology. And here's the debut video of the title track:

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nathalia and Alina Celeste, Bilingual Separately and Together

A pair of bilingual children's music releases came across my desk at virtually the same time. Since they address many of the same themes (albeit in subtly distinct ways), I decided to put them side-by-side in one article. Colombia native Nathalia has released her fourth CD, EN LA RADIO and Alina Celeste shows her Cuban family influences on LOVE IS TE QUIERO.

Both performers came to children's through through educational backgrounds; Alina teaching music in the Miami-Dade County public schools and Nathalia doing the same in Los Angeles. The powerful allure of writing and performing original material as a platform to promote positive messages brought Nathalia to the stage and Alina to YouTube and a host of venues, from a petting zoo to a renaissance faire.  

For EN LA RADIO, Nathalia uses the premise of the songs existing all over the dial, so to speak, in English and Spanish, with ID breaks along the way. To show the range of the spectrum, "El Monstruo Verde" shares the stage with its English equivalent, "The Green-Eyed Monster." The CD starts with the summery "Sounds of the Seasons," and blurs the bilingual demarcation with "Amor Amor," a lilting acoustic song. "Little Hermit Crab" tells the tale of a tiny crustacean tot, but you know who Nathalia is really talking about. Families can engage in English or Spanish or both languages, while it's easy enough to piece together what you may not completely understand.

Alina Celeste's LOVE IS TE QUIERO has a more razor-focused concern: the power of love through sharing and singing music. "Clap Hands" is innocently simple, while "Vaca Lechera" recounts a magical milkshake-giving cow (written in 1943 by Fernando Garcia Morcillo).

"Love Is" kicks off the CD coveying different ways to display affection, such as opening up a rainbow when it's raining. "I've got nothing to say here, since nothing much rhymes with up," Alina adds. "Te Quiero" delivers a similar sentiment in Spanish. But the point is made, nonetheless. "Stardust" talks about things being bright, and no, it's not the Hoagy Carmichael number (Willie Nelson if you want to get more current by about 40 years).

There is a burgeoning and under-served demographic for bilingual children's music. Lucky Diaz and Sonia de los Santos help to fill that void, and these two performers are certainly up to the job. Alina has the Florida panhandle (and a nation of YouTubers) at her disposal. And Nathalia has the West Coast ready for her CD rollout. Armed with guitars and goodwill, they are prepared to make your kids smile and sing along, in two languages.

EN LA RADIO is available May 31 from Nathalia's websiteAmazon, and Apple Music.

LOVE IS TE QUIERO is available from Alina Celeste's website and Amazon.

Here is a recent video of Alina leading a singalong for "Zoom Zoom I'm Going to the Moon":

Friday, May 24, 2019

Lissa Schneckenburger Celebrates Adoption

Buzz around children's music for any period of time, and you'll see pretty much every topic covered with the nth degree of sincerity. Whether or not that's in your wheelhouse is one thing. Whether or not you want to share those sentiments with your child is another thing. Lissa Schneckenburger's wheelhouse is foster parenting and adoption. Take a deep breath and we'll continue.

Adoption and foster parenting is an important factor in our lives. Even blockbuster movies such as Shazam! face foster parenting head on. When times get hard and people can't cope for various reasons, the most innocent among us are the most vulnerable. Schneckenburger (say that three times fast) is intimately involved in that community and her new song cycle, THUNDER IN MY ARMS, addresses its issues head-on, in collision mode, with violins and piano. It's a precocious cacophony and meticulously mimics the aspects of the process, from the viewpoint of the disillusioned youth who feels thrown away in "Look Away" (I know/you cannot fool me/nobody wants me) and "On My Own" (I used to have a father once/He doesn't live like me), to the accepting adult who offers inconceivable, unconditional love on "Since the Day We Met":

Everybody makes mistakes and
We get up and try again
But make no mistake, you were no mistake and
I've loved you since the day we met

Simple, stark arrangements surround the songs "They Sent Me a Picture," "Feel Better," and "I Need Us Together." As for the deep breaths, you need to be prepared when "I'll Stick Around" opens with the line "When my mother left me it was for my own good" and "Blow Out the Candles" begins "You flew in on a plane from Korea, to Anchorage, to me."

THUNDER IN MY ARMS is a tribute and testimony to the adventure of foster parenting and the special people who undertake its responsibilities. Schneckenburger has the tenure and tone in the movement and enlisted friends and extended family to chronicle her experiences. It's rare that a bold statement can bring me to tears in my car. THUNDER IN MY ARMS is that exciting exception.

THUNDER IN MY ARMS is available from Lissa Schneckenburger’s website, CDBABY, Bandcamp, Apple Music, and Amazon.

Here is a video of Lissa performing "I'll Stick Around":

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ben's Playlist - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Setting Sun – Bears And Lions
Have You Ever Been Real – Dean Jones
Stars – Ants Ants Ants
White Whale – Kepi Ghoulie
Buenos Dias-the Lucky Band  – The Lucky Band
Watch Petunia Dance – Caspar Babypants
What Will I Be? – The Not-Its!

Pointed Man Band's New Age of Kid's Music

What if you woke up in a world where the Alan Parsons Project and King Crimson recorded children's music? Well, have no fear – Pointed Man Band (Dan Elliott) had the same vision and his latest release, AMONGST THE TALL TREES, delivers exactly that sort of perception, interwoven with childlike wonder and whimsy.

The TV series Twin Peaks showed that the Pacific Northwest is a region of profound mystery and hypnotic music. In that vein, Dan Elliott's music as Pointed Man Band celebrates the customs and culture of growing up, without sentimentality, conjuring up comparisons to the late Harry Nilsson's quick flirtation with children's music (essentially the soundtracks to The Point and Robert Altman's Popeye). 

Children's music has fragmented to where there are now whole categories – folk, rock, jazz, blues, World, and experimental new age (STEVENSTEVEN) and Pointed Man Band.  Elliott captures the sound of a daydreamer, sharing his vision on songs like "Pint Size," "Eagle Creek," and "Vs. People," which sounds like Brian Eno producing Yes. For the jaunty "Dark Divide," the title doesn't precisely jibe with the inner argument of nature versus nurture:

Oh! Hey! Hurray for the rain that will wash it all away!
For the rivers and streams and the nature of things
Who can remain unseen through the decades.
To the moss and the ferns and the moisture in turn
Amongst the tall trees and the pristine
Between the dew and the pines you find that animal minds
Go beyond what they may seem.

The artwork of AMONGST THE TALL TREES captures your attention as well. Portland illustrator Brooke Weeber delivers cover paintings that harken to Roger Dean's famed fantasy landscapes for Yes and Asia. The scope of Elliott's vision has also attracted performers such as Recess Monkey's Jack Forman and Johnny Clay (Ants Ants Ants) on tracks like the mostly instrumental "April Fools." The album is a singular, genial message of fun and exploration through "new age" music sensibilities. Your youngest may miss the forest, but they should still enjoy their time amongst the trees.

AMONGST THE TALL TRESS is available from Pointed Man Band's website, Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the full Pointed Man Band performing their song "The Cardoons":