Intro to Kindie: Stefan Shepherd

It has been a long time since I've posted an "Intro to Kindie" list, such a long time that even if you're a regular reader, you'd probably need a reminder of its purpose.  (Here you go: Folks like me who are immersed in the genre provide a one-hour introduction to the genre for people who are unfamiliar with it.  It's the mixtape equivalent of an "elevator pitch.")

There are a lot of reasons for that, mostly having to do with PEOPLE BUSY ALL THE TIME.  And I'd always been planning on doing one of my own, but of course, PEOPLE BUSY ALL THE TIME.  Still, I felt like this post -- my post -- in particular just kept slipping further down off the list, and maybe that's because I thought that putting a list down "on paper" would make this list more permanent that it needs to be.

I would note that this isn't a list of the 20 best kids' songs of all time, or my 20 favorites, or my family's collective 20 favorites, or the 20 most important songs or artists.  Certainly some of these would appear on all such lists, but the purpose for me of this list is something more modest -- simply introduce an unfamiliar listener to kids' music to such music, perhaps with an emphasis on more modern music, but at least a good overview.

So as you look at (and listen to) this list of songs that I think make for a good introduction to kids music past, present, and future, keep in mind that what makes up the past, present, and future is always changing.  (It's changing as I write this.)  I'll still always think these songs are great and important, but my perspective, and kids music generally, will continue to evolve.

Without any further ado -- after all, this has been delayed long enough -- here is my intro to kindie, arranged roughly in alphabetical order:

Ella Jenkins - "Miss Mary Mack"

Pete Seeger - "Skip To My Lou"

Raffi - "Mr. Sun"

Laurie Berkner - "Moon Moon Moon"

Dan Zanes and Friends - "Pay Me My Money Down"

Elizabeth Mitchell - "Little Liza Jane"

They Might Be Giants - "Seven"

The Hipwaders - "Educated Kid"

Medeski, Martin & Wood - "Where's the Music?"

Lunch Money - "A Cookie As Big As My Head"

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo - "Gotta Be Me"

Recess Monkey - "Sack Lunch"

Caspar Babypants - "Stompy the Bear"

The Okee Dokee Brothers - "Can You Canoe?"

Justin Roberts - "Recess"

The Pop Ups - "All These Shapes"

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band - "Piñata Attack"

Jazzy Ash - "Hide and Seek"

Mista Cookie Jar - "Gratitude"

Frances England - "See What We Can See"

Top Kids and Family Podcasts (August 2016)

Time once more to take a look at the nebulously-ranked world of podcasts.  This month's list differs slightly from last month's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.  For the most part, the order is the same, and the rankings of these particular podcasts within the "kids and family" charts in the iTunes and Stitcher kids and family charts are generally in the same range as last month.  (So, too, is the general placement of the most highly-ranked podcasts here within the "all podcasts" chart.  What is a continued improvement is the number of podcasts on one of the two lists, 28 -- the same as last month, but still up from 22 in June.

As always: this is a blunt instrument, combining pure rankings from two fairly opaque charts, and for a variety of reasons has only marginal value as a measure of quality.  (Results compiled from Top 100 podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.  Podcasts that appear on both charts are listed with numbers; remaining podcasts only appeared on one list.)  I will also note that it's subject to considerable sway by a single high-profile article or event.  For example, after this Popsugar article on 15 podcasts for families came out after my research, the rankings of several podcasts that made the list jumped significantly so that 6 of the top 10 podcasts on iTunes were listed below (compared to 2-4 at other times) and OWTK's Kid's Music Monthly, which wasn't on the top 200, jumped to 27.

Two other reminders:

1.  If you're looking for a list that has most (or all) of these podcasts, check out my comprehensive list of podcasts for kids.

2. If you're interested in the future of podcasts for kids, you might be interested in Kids Listen, a grassroots organization of podcasters and folks like me interested in helping high-quality audio for children thrive.  We're looking for other interested folks -- producers or otherwise -- to join in!

With that out of the way, let's get to the chart.

1. Stories Podcast

2. Brains On

3. Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified

4. Storynory

5. Tumble

6. Story Pirates

7. Story Time

8. Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child

Others (listed alphabetically): 1001 Classic Short Stories and Tales, Activated Stories, Audio Books for Children, Barefoot Books, But Why, Children's Fun Storytime, Cramazingly Incredifun Sugarcrash Kids, Ear Snacks, Family Folk Tales, Goop Tales; Little Stories for Tiny People, Molly and the Sugar Monster, Official Adventures in Odyssey, Podcast Kid, Radio Adventures of Doctor Floyd, The Secret Diaries of Tara Tremendous, Short & Curly, Sparkle Stories, The Story Home, That Story Show

Video: "Mister Cloud" - Caspar Babypants

Away We Go album cover

Away We Go album cover

To go into my appreciation for Chris Ballew's Caspar Babypants project would take far more time than I have at the moment (not to mention a ruthless editor prepared to cut my ramblings to an acceptable length.

And I feel like that would go against the spirit of CB's music for kids, which is simple, stylish, and incredibly catchy.  It's not that he dashes off the music -- or his videos -- there is attention and craft in his output.  But there's definitely not a feeling of overthinking things, and as he's been cranking out more than one album a year for several years now, he doesn't have time to overthink things.

The latest Caspar Babypants album Away We Go! was released last week, and the first single from the album is "Mister Cloud."  Like many of his videos, the video for "Mister Cloud" has a very simple concept -- it's a hand-drawn cloud looking very cute -- neatly executed.  I like it a bunch.

Caspar Babypants - "Mister Cloud" [YouTube]

Video: "Players' Life" - Alphabet Rockers (World Premiere!)

Back to school season is in full swing, and the Bay Area's Alphabet Rockers have a brand-new video to help your favorite kindergartner slide back into life on the school playground.

OK, I promise that their video for "Players' Life" is, unlike my dad-joke of a sentence above, entirely cool.  The song's off their new album The Playground Zone and the video features a whole bunch of kids dancing with the duo (Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd) on a playground, a sight which in my eyes very rarely gets old.  (Choreography is courtesy of Samara Atkins from Oakland's Destiny Arts Center.)  The kids themselves are from Shepherd's son's second grade class (his son, also named Tommy, is one of the mini-me's, who might be my favorite thing about the video).  Director Julio Salcedo, who directs the Rockers' web series, keeps things moving along here, too.

Just an all-around fun little video, one I'm happy to be world-premiering here.

Alphabet Rockers - "Players' Life" [YouTube]

Radio Playlist: New Music August 2016

The summer new release doldrums plus some vacation on my part (read: can't listen to much new music) means that this month's list of new music for your family's listening pleasure is a bit shorter than usual.  (If you want to catch July's slightly longer list, you can see that playlist here.)  But just because it's short doesn't mean it's not good -- this is 18 minutes of premium music.  (And just wait 'til the September list!)

As always, it's limited in that if an artist hasn't chosen to post a song on Spotify, I can't put it on the list, nor can I feature songs from as-yet-unreleased albums.  But I'm always keeping stuff in reserve for the next Spotify playlist.

Check out the list here (or right here in you're in Spotify).

**** New Music August 2016 (August 2016 Kindie Playlist) ****

"Botany" - Danny Weinkauf

"1-2-3-4-5-6-7 a Song" - Doctor Noize

"Miss Mary Mack" - Ella Jenkins

"Secret Superhero" - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

"Willy Was a Whale" - Justin Roberts

"Byke" - Baron Von Rumblebuss