Monday Morning Smile: "Little Changes" - Frank Turner

I have Bill Childs of Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child to thank for me becoming a Frank Turner fan.  It's a fanhood that stretches back maybe seven years or more, and it's provided me with a good deal of joy since then.  Turner puts on a great live show, which from my perspective is a result of infectious life-affirming singalong choruses.  (He also offers up a nice dose of self-deprecating humor.)

Turner's just released his latest album, Be More Kind, and while the arrangements are a little poppier than some of his past, punkier work, Turner's songwriting gifts are just as sharp.  Some of the tracks on the album are more political in nature.  This one, "Little Changes," is political, too, but let's call it "small 'p' political" -- nothing that an 8-year-old wouldn't understand (though they might wonder what "the Underground" is if they're not from London).  And the video features Turner embracing more of that self-deprecating humor he deploys in concert, albeit with far fancier footwork here.

Frank Turner - "Little Changes" [YouTube]

Video: "10,000 Pancakes" - Gunnar Madsen (World Premiere!)

 I Am Your Food album cover

I Am Your Food album cover

It's been a decade since Gunnar Madsen released an album for kids (2008's I'm Growing!), but the drought is at an end with the release next month of I Am Your Food.

Perhaps unsurprisingly based on the album title and cover art, it's an album featuring nothing but food-related tracks, with guest artists like Bill Harley, Frances England, and Justin Roberts also part of the menu.  (OK, promise -- that's the only food pun I'll make in this post.)

This song, "10,000 Pancakes," features the title repeated many times at nearly shouting levels of volume.  And if you're anything like me, the phrase "Ten thousand pancakes!" will randomly pop up in your head for at least a week after hearing the track.

The video will just help reinforce that hijacking of your brain.  It features animation from Madsen himself and while the animation isn't Pixar-quality ("I can sometimes draw a cute little cartoon," says Madsen, "but the results are hit-or-miss -- mostly miss"), the angry pancakes in particular capture the energy of the song.  I like it.

I Am Your Food is out June 15 (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Bandcamp).

Gunnar Madsen - "10,000 Pancakes" [YouTube]

Video: "Blue" - Ants Ants Ants (World Premiere!)

 Why Why Why? album cover

Why Why Why? album cover

Yay for new bands making a splash!  The band in question is Ants Ants Ants, and even before the release of their debut album Why Why Why? next month, I'm already tickled pink by one of their brand new videos.  It's for the song "Blue," about blue whales, inspired in part by a conversation which one half of the duo Johnny Clay had with his daughter -- “On the way to school one morning, my 7 year old asked what the biggest animal on earth was - I told her it was a blue whale and we looked it up together when we got to school. We found out they can be 80 feet long!”

For the gentle, hummable song about blue whales, the Portland, Oregon duo of Johnny Clay and Dave Gulick turned to animator Chris Purdin.   The animation from Purdin (who also did the album art) is a perfect fit for the music, friendly and warm.  I'm happy to world-premiere the video.  And while Why Why Why? isn't available until May 20th, if you pre-order it at all the places you preorder music these days, you can get "Blue" as an instant download.  So go forth and, er, dive in!  [Slinks away slowly...]

Ants Ants Ants - "Blue" [YouTube]

Listen To This: "Waiting for the Elevator" - Laurie Berkner (World Premiere!)

 Laurie Berkner Waiting for the Elevator cover

Laurie Berkner Waiting for the Elevator cover

It's always nice to see new music from Laurie Berkner cross my desk, so when her latest single, "Waiting for the Elevator," popped in my e-mail inbox, I clicked "play" without reading anything about it.  It starts out simply, as Berkner songs often do, with an ear-wormy melody, Berkner's clear voice, and lyrics about riding up in an elevator.  Aside from the fact that she sings about riding up to the first floor (are we in Europe now?), it seemed like it was an appealing, albeit fairly conventional, song.

And then it got a little strange.

Not Inception strange, or in any way inappropriately, but what I'm saying is, listen to the whole thing.  (Your preschoolers will make you, anyway.)  I'm happy to be world premiering the track today right here, but you can also listen at your other favorite places (iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify).

Laurie Berkner - "Waiting for the Elevator" [YouTube]

Video: "Constellation Jig" - Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer (World Premiere!)

 Zoom a Little Zoom cover

Zoom a Little Zoom cover

While I think one of the things I've appreciated most about kids music over the past decade plus is the genre's expansion into new sounds, it's a little sad that there isn't as much history, so to speak, aside from the many traditional folk songs that reinterpreted many times over.

So I was glad to hear that Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, key players in the kids music field for many years, were honoring some of their forebears with their forthcoming album Zoom a Little Zoom! A Ride Through Science.  The new album takes songs from the classic set of albums called Ballads for the Age of Science.  Those albums, also known as the Singing Science Records, featured songs by lyricist Hy Zaret and composer Lou Singer, performed by Dorothy Collins, Smithsonian Folkways artist Tom Glazer, and more.  They Might Be Giants covered a couple songs off the album, so it's not totally unfamiliar, but as songs that essentially beat Schoolhouse Rock by a full decade, they're important in the history of American kids music.

Fink and Marxer don't cover every song off the albums, but the ones they do, including this one, "Constellation Jig," (very Irish, natch) get contemporary arrangements commissioned by Zaret's son Robert. The accompanying video is lovely, with lots of detailed animations (including, of course, the constellations themselves) to accompany the lyrics.  I'm happy to world-premiere the video below.  And if you want to pick up the album, which comes out this Friday, March 30, feel free to check out iTunes or Amazon.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer - "Constellation Jig" [YouTube]

Monday Morning Smile: "Heroes" (David Bowie) - Choir! Choir! Choir! feat. David Byrne

You will notice that this website has been... not so active recently.  That's mostly due to "real life" taking up most of my time.  The day job, parenting, a desire to keep myself healthy -- I value all of those things higher than this website.  But the minute I saw the latest post in David Byrne's journal, I knew that it would make its way here.

The post recounts Byrne's experiences singing with Choir! Choir! Choir!, a Canadian group which organizes public singing with formal arrangements.  Recently he sang David Bowie's triumphant "Heroes" in New York City with members of the public briefly rehearsed by Choir! Choir! Choir! and the result is, well, my favorite rendition of the song, and a reminder to me, of the joy and communal feeling that drew me to kids music its performers in the first place.

[Also, to say that I'm really excited to see Byrne on tour this spring is an understatement.  Even if there's no public singalong involved.]

Choir! Choir! Choir! featuring David Byrne - "Heroes" [YouTube]