Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Videos

Continuing our look at the year's best in kids music, we finish up with videos.  Now, unlike albums and songs, for which I've traditionally tried to adhere to the Fids and Kamily year (which is Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014 this year), my best-of video selections have tended to run on more of a March through Feburary video fiscal year.  I did that to kick off the very first KidVid Tournament, and I've sort of stuck with that ever since.  (So nobody release an awesome video in the next 48 hours, OK?)

Here's my list of my favorite 30 kids music videos of "2014."  Some are big-budget productions, some are small-budget productions, and some are virtually-no-budget productions.  There are puppets, stop-action, hand-animation, computer animation, live action, and sometimes, more than one of those things.

Before I present the 30 videos, I should note that I wanted to limit an artist to no more than one video on the list.  Which meant that artists like The Bazillions, Danny Weinkauf, and Caspar Babypants don't get their full due as artists that have fully committed to the art of the kids music video, each releasing several music videos that could have appeared on this list (if I wasn't limiting them to one video, they might have had a dozen or so between them).

Of particular note, Chris Ballew has done some amazing work, not only contracting out with a variety of animators for his Caspar Babypants videos but also producing videos on his own beautiful in their creativity and simplicity.  For that reason, I'm giving him a Special Award for Awesomest Kids Music Video Guy of 2014.  Now, if you don't mind, I've got to go find an MTV VMA statue on eBay so I modify it and give it to Ballew.

So while I'm doing that, here's the list in alphabetical order by artist.  A YouTube playlist can be found at the very end if you'd like to while away an hour or two...

Dynamite - Alphabet Rockers (YouTube)

No Homework - The Bazillions (YouTube)

Bottle Caps - Laurie Berkner (YouTube)

Tiny Little Car - Johnny Bregar (YouTube)

The Creatures Under My Bed - Caspar Babypants (YouTube)

Grand March from Aida - Dog On Fleas (YouTube)

I'm a Little Fish - Laura Doherty (YouTube)

Hair - fleaBITE (YouTube)

I Can't Feel My Face - Gustafer Yellowgold (YouTube)

How Great Can This Day Be - Lori Henriques (YouTube)

November First (Jump, Run, Shake) - Eric Herman (YouTube)

Just Not Me - The Hipwaders (YouTube)

Did You Ever See a Lassie? - Charlie Hope (YouTube)

Snow Day - Josh and the Jamtones (YouTube)

Crew Cut - Randy Kaplan (YouTube)

Gingerbread Man - Lunch Money  (YouTube)

I Love You More - Todd McHatton (YouTube)

Girls Wanna Dance - Milkshake (YouTube)

Call Me Mista Cookie Jar - Mista Cookie Jar (YouTube)

Haircut - The Not-Its (YouTube)

Walking With Spring - The Okee Dokee Brothers (YouTube)

All These Shapes - The Pop Ups (YouTube)

Love Bug - Raffi (YouTube)

Brick By Brick - Recess Monkey (YouTube)

Rattlesnake - Red Yarn (YouTube)

Los Colores - Andres Salguero (YouTube)

Pillow Fort Pillow Fight - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (YouTube)

Ice Cream (Healthy Eating) - Danny Weinkauf (YouTube)

Sea Turtle - The Whizpops (YouTube)

Armando Armadillo - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke (YouTube)

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Songs

know.  This is madness, right?  Trying to come up with a list of my 30 favorite songs from the past year? Completely. Nuts.

But that's what I'm willing to do for you, dear readers.  More so than a list of albums or debuts or videos, however, a list ranking favorite songs is ephemeral, subject to the whims of a particular moment.  More than that, it probably tends toward the poppy, upbeat, and lively.  Tender lullabies have to do more work to stand out in my (or your) memory if you've heard literally thousands of kids' songs over the past year.

But regardless of how different my list would next week (or late in the evening), these 30 songs are among the best that kids music offered us in the past year.  ("Year," as always, defined as Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, though that's harder to stick to given the prevalence of singles which might have been released on either side of that window.  Deal.)

Also, these are in alphabetical order -- if you think I'm going to attempt to rank all these, you're even more nuts than I am in deciding to pick them.

Anyway, I've combined these into a handy Spotify playlist found at the bottom of this list (click here if you're already in Spotify).  Enjoy!

Bears and Lions - "Pancakes"

The Laurie Berkner Band – "Fireflies"

Caspar Babypants – "The Girl with the Squirrel in Her Hat"

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band – "When I Grow Up"

The Dirty Sock Funtime Band (w/ Laurie Berkner) – "We're in Love"

Laura Doherty - "I'm a Little Fish"

Django Jones – "Counterpoint"

Gustafer Yellowgold - "Toothloser"

The Hipwaders – "Kings & Queens"

Charlie Hope – "Harmony" (feat. Elizabeth Mitchell)

Hullabaloo – "Like a Bird Must Feel"

Jazzy Ash - "Throw Me Something Mista" (feat. Mista Cookie Jar)

Randy Kaplan – "Not Too Young for a Song"

Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights – "Food Fight"

Josh and the Jamtones – "Green and Spakkled Frogs"

Luscious Jackson – "Hula Hoop"

Walter Martin - "Hey Sister" (feat. Kat Edmonson)

Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips – "My My My"

The Not-Its! - "When I Fell (The Scab Song)"

The Okee Dokee Brothers - "Through the Woods"

The Pop Ups - "All These Shapes"

Raffi – "Love Bug"

Recess Monkey - "Smooth Sailing"

Red Yarn - "The Fox"

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – "Just Say Hi!"

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – "Imaginary Friend"

The Short Films – "The Mysterious Okapi"

Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots – "The Grape Jam" (feat. Spare Parts)

Danny Weinkauf – "Oh No Oh Yeah"

The Whizpops! – "Sea Turtule"

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 10 Debuts

Continuing on with my look back at 2014 (or Oct. 1, 2013 though Sept. 30, 2014, or thereabouts), let's turn our attention to debuts.

The notion of "debut" is a difficult one, particularly in kids music, because one often hears music from artists who've been around for a long time recording music for adults who dip their toes into the kiddie pool.  Is that a debut?  My answer has tended to be "no."  So albums from artists like The Short Films and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir, albums I clearly loved, weren't considered for this list, because I got no sense that those artists viewed those albums as the start of a career (or even career sideline) making music for families.  Same goes for albums by Luscious Jackson, Zee Avi, and MC Frontalot.

Or what do you do about artists like Dan Flannery and Steve Lee, who recorded kids' albums already with the Flannery Brothers and, er, Steve Lee?  Well, you disqualify albums recorded as Danny Lion and Yumzah which would've potentially made this list.  And Rainbow Beast?  I just didn't know what to do with that group of folks recording music written by a rotating set of kids.  So I omitted them.

Luckily, the list of ten albums below are still fine introductions to kids music from artists I've got a pretty good feeling might come back for round 2 -- at the very least they went to the trouble of creating a new band, right?  So here are my top 10 favorite debuts, listed alphabetically.

 

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Bears and Lions - We're a Club in the Woods (review) - "Jangly, southern-fried guitar-pop songs about jumping out of airplanes, man's best friend, and PAN! CAKE! SWEEP! STAKES!  (Just listen to "Pancakes" all the way through, trust me.)"

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Edie Carey & Sarah Sample - 'Til the Morning: Lullabies & Songs of Comfort (review) - " 'Til the Morning is an album of love songs, just like all lullaby albums should be, and beyond that it also has a feeling of things fitting just so, its songs of comfort also comfortable."

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Django Jones - D is for Django (review) - "Songs like "Counterpoint," which manages to be about counterpoint the musical term and counterpoint the metaphorical concept while being mostly in counterpoint, demonstrate heart and humor and (natch) tight harmonies."

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Jelly of the Month Club - Introducing… (review) - "Some songs like "Tell Someone" contain lessons of a sort, but that's a song that namechecks Cheryl Ladd and Chaka Khan, to name a few, so clearly there's a playfulness that cuts through any overt "Learn. This." approach."

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Walter Martin - We're All Young Together (review) - "Whatever cool-points Martin may have lost by wadding into the kid's music world, the playful and sweet nature of this new album shows he doesn't care one bit. He feels very much at home."

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Red Yarn - The Deep Woods (review) - '"Mr. Rabbit" has an almost desperate urgency while "The Fox," which brings together "The Fox," "Midnight Special," and "Go Tell Aunty Rhody," is absolutely gorgeous.  This is a folk revival, in all the many meanings of the word "revival."'

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Andres Salguero - ¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andrés! (review) - "From "Los Colores" (a mellow bachata, popularized in the Dominican Republic) to "La Clave" (a percussion-driven -- of course -- Cuban/Puerto Rican salsa tune), Salguero samples Latin America's rich musical heritage."

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Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots - Food! (review) - "But like a good bowl of mac'n'cheese, when done right, this style of kids music can be very satisfying.  The multi-instrumentalist Tatar plays in a number of bands throughout Chicago, and the level of production is excellent, with Tatar handling a lot of duties, but also bringing in his friends to fill out the sound."

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Danny Weinkauf - No School Today (review) - "You don't have to be a They Might Be Giants fan to appreciate this album (though TMBG fans are most likely to go nuts for this), just a fan of nicely-crafted, occasionally goofy, kid-pop."

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Whirlygigs - Greetings from Cloud 9 (review) - "Greetings from Cloud 9 definitely has a retro sound, but it's not burnt in amber, either.  For families looking for a mellower kindie sound reminiscent of those Taj Mahal records (or perhaps a little bit like fellow New Englander Alastair Moock), this Whirlygigs album is worth exploring."

Video: "Gingerbread Man" - Lunch Money

So of course Lunch Money had to make a video with Belle et Bête, the puppetry troupe with whom Lunch Money ringleader Molly Ledford made a space puppet opera (or is that puppet space opera?).

The two troupes collaborated on a video for "Gingerbread Man" from Lunch Money's fine 2012 album Spicy Kid.  It's cute -- the titular baked good (based on Brandon Reese's album art!) leading some of Columbia's citizens on a chase around the city.  I liked it.

Lunch Money - "Gingerbread Man" [YouTube]

Video: "Just For You" - Caspar Babypants

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There's a brand new Caspar Babypants album coming out next month.  I know, Chris Ballew's productivity sometimes makes it seem like there's a brand new Caspar Babypants album coming out every month, but that's really not the case.

The brand new album is called Night Night! and it's CB's lullaby(-ish) album.  It's set to be released on March 17 and in anticipation of the release, Ballew has released a brand-new lo-fi video every bit as brilliant as his other lo-fi videos.

It features a bunch of pictures of Ballew as a baby, but I can assure you that his one simple trick turns something that would be of interest for about 10 seconds into a genuinely fun 3-minute video.

Caspar Babypants - "Night Night" [YouTube]

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Albums

If I were more disciplined about my writing, I'd have written this three months ago when people were thinking about holiday gift lists rather than, well, now.  The advantage is that, rather than giving you a "hot take" about music that I might regret later, I can let a few weeks or months go by and make sure I'm not forgetting (or including) something time has given me more perspective on.

Given that it is approaching the end of February, I think I'll skip the think pieces, the "what does it all mean" text and jump right into the list.  As always, my year-end best-of list matches the Fids and Kamily year -- that is to say, from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.  So some good albums from the last 3 months [waves at Lori Henriques] will just have to wait for next year's list.

One final comment: I originally titled this the "Top 25 Albums" but when I went over my reviews, I realized that limiting it to 25 was going to a difficult proposition.  So I've bumped it up to 30.  That's a good problem to have.

Edit: A couple days later, I was going through my spreadsheet and realized that I totally forgot to add Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke's Animal Tales.  Can't leave that album off the list.  So now it's a Top 31 Album list.

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#1 The Pop Ups - Appetite for Construction

Review - "The Pop-Ups know that you don't need your parent's smart phone to have the world at your fingertips."

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#2 Charlie HopeSing As We Go!

Review - "It's traditional but not musty, sweet but not cloying, engaging but not pandering.  It's a gem of an album, definitely worthy of a comparison to Raffi."

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#3 Red YarnThe Deep Woods

Review - '"Mr. Rabbit" has an almost desperate urgency while "The Fox," which brings together "The Fox," "Midnight Special," and "Go Tell Aunty Rhody," is absolutely gorgeous.  This is a folk revival, in all the many meanings of the word "revival."'

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#4 Walter MartinWe're All Young Together

Review - "Whatever cool-points Martin may have lost by wadding into the kid's music world, the playful and sweet nature of this new album shows he doesn't care one bit. He feels very much at home."

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#5 (tie) The Okee Dokee BrothersThrough the Woods

Review - 'The title track, featuring a lovely descending bass line, is the spiritual successor to the last album's title track, but most of the songs are more content to celebrate tiny moments -- dancing with neighbors in "Jamboree," the gentle love song "Evergreen," the ode to keeping things loose "Out of Tune."'

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#5 (tie) Recess MonkeyDesert Island Disc

Review - "If the songs hold together in any particular way, it's more in their sound.  In the orchestrations (from Jherek Bischoff, brother of drummer Korum Bischoff), toned-down retro-rock, and love songs, this is easily their most Beatles-esque album since their little-heard debut Welcome to Monkey Town."

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#7 (tie) The Short FilmsKingdom Animalia

Review - "The entire album has a dream-like effect -- "Pegafox" is about a make-believe animal, for example, the body of a red fox with the wings of a red-tailed hawk.  "The Mysterious Okapi" is the kids song we never knew Portishead had written about an animal almost none of us know."

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#7 (tie) Elizabeth Mitchell - The Sounding Joy

Review - "The communal experience of singing in celebration is honored here, somewhat hushed, always joyful."

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#9 (tie) Danny WeinkaufNo School Today

Review - "You don't have to be a They Might Be Giants fan to appreciate this album (though TMBG fans are most likely to go nuts for this), just a fan of nicely-crafted, occasionally goofy, kid-pop."

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#9 (tie) Sólrún SumarliðadóttirSkýjaflétta

Review - "This is a thoroughly charming album and while I'm sure I will never get a chance to see the dance pieces these were composed for, I'm glad the album has a chance to cross the ocean for families with adventurous listening habits."

After the top ten, which I can give you because it matches my Fids and Kamily ballot, distinguishing between the rest of my list becomes a little more difficult.  So I'm taking the easy way out - alphabetical order for albums 11 through 31.

Laurie Berkner - Laurie Berkner Lullabies (review)

Bears and Lions - We're a Club in the Woods (review)

Edie Carey & Sarah Sample - 'Til the Morning: Lullabies & Songs of Comfort (review)

Caspar Babypants - Rise and Shine (review)

Danny Lion - First Songs (review)

Lucky Diaz & Family Jam Band - Aqui Alla (review)

Lucky Diaz & Family Jam Band - Lishy Lou and Lucky Too (review)

Laura Doherty - In a Heartbeat (review)

Gustafer Yellowgold - Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom (review)

Thomas Hellman and Emilie Clepper (The Secret Mountain) - I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (review)

The Hipwaders - Year-Round Sounds (review)

Hullabaloo - Shy Kid Blues (review)

Jelly of the Month Club - Introducing… (review)

Randy Kaplan - Jam on Rye (review)

The Not-ItsRaise Your Hand (review)

Papa Crow - Full Moon, Full Moon (review)

Raffi - Love Bug (review)

Recess Monkey - Wired (review)

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - Just Say Hi (review)

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo - The Perfect Quirk (review)

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - Animal Tales (review)