Video: "Katy Caterpillar" - Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke

Amidst the rush and noise of the holiday season from Thanksgiving onward, I encourage families to come back to this video from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke.  It's for "Katy Caterpillar," a gentle Beatlesque lullaby, and while I'm pretty sure November and January isn't the most common time of year for caterpillars to become butterflies, Wilde's animations of butterflies (and caterpillars) are soothing visually.  A perfectly pleasant two minutes.

Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke - "Katy Caterpillar" [YouTube]

Ten Great Spanish-Language Kids Music Albums

Earlier this week, the 16th Annual Latin Grammys were awarded, and the Children's category featured 3 familiar names to fans of kindie (and Zooglobble): Mister G, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, and 123 Andrés.  (The winner this time around was Mister G for Los Animales; Diaz won a couple years ago for ¡Fantástico!.)

Concurrently, as I wrote recently in my review of Sonia De Los Santos' latest album, I think we're in a third wave of Spanish kids music.  And I believe that because this new wave has a broad range of musical sounds and is made for entertainment rather than explicitly educational (read: language-learning) reasons, it's likely to stick.

So I thought it was an appropriate time for me to produce a list I've been pondering for awhile, and that's this list of ten great Spanish-language kids music albums.

I'll be the first to admit that the relative paucity on this list of albums released before 2000 is a weakness of this list, but there are no weak albums here -- they are either essential albums from a historical or classroom setting, or they are lots of fun regardless of whether Spanish is your first, second, or sixth language.

I'll also say that this list was harder to compile than I initially thought it might be, not because I struggled to find ten albums to be on the list, but because I had to cut some albums that I initially thought would make it due to sheer numbers.  But it's folks like Andrés Salguero and Mariana Iranzi, for example, whom I expect to continue to make quality music along with the rest of these artists.

It's a good time to listen to kids music sung in Spanish -- here are ten albums, ordered chronologically, to let you dive in.

ALERTA Sings / Songs for the Playground cover

ALERTA Sings / Songs for the Playground cover

Artist: Suni Paz

Album: ALERTA Sings & Songs for the Playground (2000 on CD; the two albums date to 1980 and 1977, respectively)

Description: 44 traditional nursery rhyme and playground songs, with some folk songs as well, sung by perhaps the best-known bilingual Spanish-language (female) kids' musician.  (Paz has a number of albums for adults as well.)  Released on Smithsonian Folkways.  Features a handful of songs in English to go along with the primarily Spanish-language songs.  Many songs for preschoolers, but also older

De Colores album cover

De Colores album cover

ArtistJosé-Luis Orozco

Album: De Colores and Other Latin American Folk Songs (2003 on CD, though it dates back to the '90s at least)

Description: 27 traditional folks songs for children, sung by perhaps the best-known bilingual Spanish-language (male) kids' musician.  Looking for an album to learn songs for use in a (preschool) classroom setting?  Start here.

Putumayo Kids - Brazilian Playground album cover

Putumayo Kids - Brazilian Playground album cover

Artist (Label)Putumayo Kids

Album: Brazilian Playground (2007, tweaked and re-released in 2012)

Description: Putumayo has of course built its business on bringing songs from around the world to the English-speaking part of the world.  This album is particularly dance-y.  It's not necessarily "kindie," but it's a lot of fun.  Oddly enough, even though the album got a second release, it's now out-of-print.  Latin Playground, which draws from a broader range of countries, is an acceptable (in-print) substitute.  [Review]

Dan Zanes - Nueva York! album cover

Dan Zanes - Nueva York! album cover

Artist: Dan Zanes

Album: ¡Nueva York! (2008)

Description: Probably the first "kindie" Spanish-language album, almost entirely in Spanish, but with an undeniably Zanes-ian roots-rock spin.  It's not quite a "Dan Zanes" album -- it's missing some of the goofiness interwoven through his best work -- but it's generous and open in sharing the stage (or recording studio) with many wonderful artists and songs. [Review]

Salsa for Kittens and Puppies cover

Salsa for Kittens and Puppies cover

ArtistBaby Loves Salsa

AlbumSalsa for Kittens & Puppies (2008)

Description: Part of the "Baby Loves..." series, which started with disco and then (briefly) branched into a series of different genres.  This one is produced by Grammy winner Aaron "Luis" Levinson and features a host of all-star players, including Jose Conde on vocals.  The lyrical content (mostly Spanish) is for preschoolers (it is "Baby Loves..." after all), but the music will appeal to a broader range.

Los Animales / Els Animals album cover

Los Animales / Els Animals album cover

Artist (Label)Minimusica

AlbumLos Animales / Els Animals (2012)

Description: There is plenty of traditional Spanish-language folk music and instrumentation on this list, but this compilation was the first album that really changed my notion of what Spanish-language kids music could be -- it's basically indie rock for kids in Spanish, made for Spanish kids.  Subsequent albums (Stateside) took a similar approach, but this is my favorite from Minimusica's four such collections.  [Review]

Vamos, Let's Go! album cover

Vamos, Let's Go! album cover

Artist: Moona Luna

Album: Vamos, Let’s Go! (2013)

Description: Sandra Velasquez's band for kids can sometimes feel like it has an "educational" bent in that its lyrics are simple, often mimicking the English in its Spanish verses and vice versa.  But she has a sharp ear for hooks, and this particular album, which uses the sounds of late '50s and early '60s rock and roll, has a unique sound not duplicated elsewhere on this list.  Definitely one of my favorite bilingual artists.  [Review]

Los Animales album cover

Los Animales album cover

Artist: Mister G

Album: Los Animales (2015)

Description: As the Massachusetts-based Mister G has recorded more albums in Spanish and English, his songs have become pared down more to their bare essentials.  This album focuses on animals and is focused on preschoolers, but he brings in a number of top-notch musicians to give the songs a rich folk-rock texture with Latin accents.  [Review]

Adelante album cover

Adelante album cover

ArtistLucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

AlbumAdelante (2015)

Description: Diaz is another artist who is pushing the boundaries of what Spanish-language kids' music can sound like.  This is a big, poppy bilingual record with a foot planted in English-language pop-rock and the other foot planted in more traditional Spanish sounds.  If there's an album on this list that will challenge preconceptions of what Spanish-language kids music made in America can sound like, this is it.  [Review]

Mi Viaje: De Nuevo Leon to the New York Island album cover

Mi Viaje: De Nuevo Leon to the New York Island album cover

Artist: Sonia De Los Santos

Album: Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León To the New York Island (2015)

Description: I think it's appropriate that one of the artists featured by Dan Zanes on his ¡Nueva York! album gets a spot of her own.  It takes a very broad view of Spanish-language music, covering songs from either side of the Atlantic Ocean and recounting, in a manner of speaking, her own journey from Mexico to New York City.  Ecumenical in its musical approach, from traditional instrumentation to Dan Zanes roots-rock.  [Review]


Intro to Kindie: Rebecca Yorn Alison

Rebecca Yorn Allison

Rebecca Yorn Allison

One of the appealing features of the kids music world is what I've found to be a relative openness to new voices.  That concept applies to musicians, of course, but also to those of us who interact with musicians, be it technicians, concert folks, or writers.

A somewhat newer voice in the kids music world is Rebecca Yorn Alison.  She jumped into the kids music world more than four years as the founder of the kids music website Kids Can Groove.  More recently, she's started booking shows for some of her favorite kindie bands as Little Cloud Management.

But like many people who find themselves drawn into a musical genre whose popularity hasn't fully reached the mainstream (we're trying!), she's first and foremost a fan.  So I thought she'd provide another good perspective in our ongoing Intro to Kindie series in which folks provide a list of songs that introduce kids music to people who are unfamiliar with the genre.  The list (and Spotify playlist) she provides tends toward the new (that They Might Be Giants isn't even formally released until later this week), but, as I said... new voices!

I love to “talk” music and was so excited when Stefan asked me to share my Intro to Kindie Music story.

My foray into kids’ music happened when my daughter Emily was just a year old. At the time, we had a fairly traditional family music collection: a few nursery rhymes, Raffi and Sesame Street. They were the sweet background of our early days as parents, but we were in need of a little variety.

Then my husband discovered two albums: Here Come the ABCs by They Might Be Giants and Kidzapalooza Vol.1. Skeptically, I gave each one a listen. I couldn’t believe it was “kids’ music.” These bands that play music for adults were engaging in linguistic experimentation, channeling their creativity into meaningful lyrics for kids. The compositions had an adult style and appealed to our daughter. It was not at all what I thought kids’ music was “supposed” to sound like. I was truly floored! 

We stumbled upon the indie pop melodies of Lunch Money, lyrical hip hop mastery of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and pop-punk-rock of The Not-Its! I started searching for kids’ Indie music (before I knew that it was fashionably called “Kindie”). We found the electro-pop of The Pop Ups, and mealtime was happier when Ralph's World came on. The sweet, hip folk sounds of Elizabeth Mitchell filtered in followed by The Okee Dokee Brothers’ bluegrass odyssey. Our music collection just kept growing!

I felt like I’d struck gold and had to share my treasure. But when I started talking to other parents about what they were listening to, I got a lot of bewildered faces and some eye rolls. More than once, I was asked, "Yeah, but is the music any good?" 

That’s when I launched Kids Can Groove, a blog that introduces new music to other music lovers who have kids. I immersed myself in this genre by hosting my own concerts and starting a booking agency called Little Cloud Management.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve seen music serve an important purpose in Emily’s life, as it has for me. She’s become emboldened in her own creativity and more confident in herself. Her fears have been quelled and friendships made stronger. Her imagination has been ignited and expanded, and she has learned about all kinds of subjects even before entering school. And none of the quality has been forfeited. Though we have always exposed Emily to music in both adult and kids’ genres, I like the peace of mind that comes when spinning a CD or downloading a playlist geared towards families. I don’t run the risk of realizing a little too late that "Kitty" by the Presidents of the United States of America is definitely not as innocent as it sounds (nor as I remember it being). That actually happened!

The world can be big and confusing and scary for kids as they try to navigate through developmental changes and social-emotional challenges. (I feel the same way as an adult!) Music specifically geared toward kids, offers an understanding through language that is spoken in just the right amount of words, syllables and images. 

My Intro to Kindie list includes songs that encompass these qualities. You’ll also find songs that initially got us hooked, and newer ones that continue to provide endless hours of purpose and entertainment. Creating a final playlist for this process was way more painful than I initially imagined. In addition to listing songs that have been family repeats, I chose to sprinkle in a few bilingual songs as they have also made their mark in our music collection. 

Freeze Tag - The Not-Its!

Ladybug - Frances England

It Makes You Feel Good - Renee & Jeremy

A Cookie As Big As My Head - Lunch Money

Q and U - The Bazillions

Omnicorn - They Might Be Giants

Pockets Full of Joy - Lucy Kalantari

Hold On To Your Dreams - MIsta Cookie Jar & The Chocolate Chips

L-O-V-E - Josh and the Jamtones

Nightlight - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

H2O - Moona Luna

Vroom - Todd McHatton

A Frog Named Sam - Ben Rudnick and Friends

Red Fox - Pointed Man Band

Spiders Under My House - The Jellydots

Bill - Ratboy Jr.

Wisconsin Poncho - Gustafer Yellowgold

Rainbow - Wunmi

Tickle Monster - Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys

Mr. & Mrs. Sippy - The Okee Dokee Brothers

Sally, Can I walk You Home? - Robbie Schaefer

The Shark Fighter- The Aquabats!

It’s All How You Look At It - Brady Rymer

Tres Ratones - Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band 

My Dog Steve - The Hipwaders

Food Calculator - Alphabet Rockers

Forever Young - Andrew & Polly

Poong Nyun Ga - Elena Moon Park

Monday Morning Smile: "That Thing You Do!" - The Wonders

If you have a certain affinity for pop music, you probably have an idea of what the perfect pop song is.

For me, "That Thing You Do!" is one such (rare) example.  It's by The Wonders and... what's that? You've never heard of the wonders?  That's because they, er, don't actually exist.  Rather, they're the band at the heart of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do!, directed by Tom Hanks (and featuring him in a supporting role).  The movie tells of the rise (and fall) of The Wonders, creators of the titular song.  Unsurprisingly, the song appears many times in the movie, and here's the beauty of it -- it never gets old.

In reality, the song was written by Adam Schlesinger of the great power-pop band Fountains of Wayne, and featured lead vocals by Mike Viola of the the band The Candy Butchers.  Of course, in reality, the song hit the Billboard charts -- not as high as in the movie, but reaching #41 on the Billboard Top 100.

But ignore all that, and just listen with the family...

The Wonders - "That Thing You Do!" [YouTube]

Video: "L.A. Christmas" - Andrew & Polly and Mista Cookie Jar (World Premiere!)

The 2015 Christmas and winter holiday season is nearly upon us and while I generally really try to limit my coverage (and own personal spinning of Christmas tunes) to after Thanksgiving, this new video and song from Los Angeles-based Andrew & Polly along with fellow L.A.-based musician Mista Cookie Jar is too groovy not to peek under the Christmas music tree a little early.

The song is called "L.A. Christmas" and while it does feature some "la's," the "L.A." in the title stands for "Los Angeles," and the song features some nice harmonies and MCJ -- the Paul F. Tompkins of kids' music for how he appears on just about everything -- helping with some rhymes. As for the video, well, let's just say the video features Christmas lights on a tree.  A palm tree.

The song's one of four on Andrew & Polly's Other Days EP (available on iTunes and elsewhere).  Anyway, I'm happy to world-premiere it -- enjoy, regardless of whether it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius where you are...

Andrew & Polly and Mista Cookie Jar - "L.A. Christmas" [YouTube]

Listen To This: "Pretty Little World" - Michael and The Rockness Monsters (World Premiere!)

Pretty Little World single cover

Pretty Little World single cover

There will always be a need for simple pop songs for pure pop kids, and I've got one such song for you today.

The song's called "Pretty Little World," and it's a single from the upcoming 2016 debut album from Michael and the Rockness Monsters titled, well, Michael and the Rockness Monsters.  Which is just a long way of saying that it's the first album meant for the general public from Michael Napolitano, founder of the Preschool of Rock.  The New Jersey/New York-based program provides music classes and birthday parties for, um, preschoolers (and younger ones).

In any case, this song is gentle with a spirit of wonder.  Also, it features bells.  I love the bells.  If you want to grab a copy of the single for your very own, you can do so on iTunes and Amazon.  Or just stream the rainbow goodness below.

Michael and the Rockness Monsters - "Pretty Little World" [Soundcloud]