Upcoming: All Kinds of You and Me - Alastair Moock

All Kinds of You and Me cover

All Kinds of You and Me cover

I don't do "album announcements" much these days, but I decided to make an exception for Alastair Moock's upcoming album All Kinds of You and Me for a few reasons:

1) Just 'cause.  No need for strict adherence to somewhat arbitrary rules.

2) That album cover, featuring a drawing from fellow kindie musician and illustrator Key Wilde which captures Moock's attitude and music quite well, I think.

3) This sounds like a really cool project.

Now, Moock's last project was pretty darn cool.  Moock recorded Singing Our Way Through as a response to his daughter Clio's experience fighting leukemia, looking for a musical way to help families in similar situations respond to life with cancer.  It was an excellent album which garnered a number of accolades, including a Grammy nomination, not to mention being distributed to nearly 3,000 patient families.  How do you follow that?

Well, Moock chose to follow that by recording All Kinds of You and Me as a follow-up of sorts to the Marlo Thomas classic Free To Be... You and Me, engaging with themes of gender, ethnicity, identity, and family in the 21st century.  Given how well loved Free To Be... is by many of Moock's (and, well, my) generation, he's set himself a high bar to reach, but I'm hopeful he's up to the task.  (Also helpful: getting folks like Rani Arbo, Anand Nayak, Jennifer Kimball of The Story, Mark Erelli, and more to join in.)

All Kinds of You and Me will be released June 19.  Definitely one to look forward to.

Radio Playlist: New Music April 2015

Spring is here (and, depending where you live, has been for awhile)!  That means the number of new releases is starting to pick up -- this list is on the short side, but lots of new releases here in the next few weeks.  If you want to catch my list from March you can see that playlist here.

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.

**** New Music April 2015 (April 2015 Kindie Playlist) ****

Rock 'n' Rainbow - "I Like to Ride My Bike"

Lloyd H. Miller - "Trapped in the Attic" 

Lucky Doug and the Stinkbugs - "Pop-a-Wheelie"

Earthworm Ensemble - "Mole vs. Coyote"

Turkey Andersen - "If a Sandwich Was a Sandwich"

Vered - "All I Want"

Caspar Babypants - "Sad Baby"

Review: Tiny Destroyer - Keith Munslow

Tiny Destroyer album cover

Tiny Destroyer album cover

I've listened to Keith Munslow's new album Tiny Destroyer album several times now, and I have been having difficulty putting my finger on exactly what it is that appeals to me about this album, and Munslow's work generally.

Maybe the problem is that if I write it down, it sounds pretty prosaic.  Here goes:

Keith Munslow writes good songs with humor, and plays them well.

Yeah, it doesn't sound any more relevatory written down than it did in my head.  But just because something is boring doesn't make it any less true.

Take the leadoff track, "Coffee Breath," an ode -- or anti-ode, really -- to a parent's love of coffee.  The narrator child complains about his parent's breath while underneath Corey Pesaturo plays some pretty amazing accordion for a Argentian/Rhode Islandan tango.  On Munslow moves through musical genres -- the doo-wop of "Intelligent Clam" (about, well, a bivalve with brains), the jazz swing of "Seeing Monkeys," the martial strut of "Tiny Destroyer" -- telling stories that should provide a grin if not outright laughs.  "Knocks the knickknacks from their nooks" from the title track isn't an objectively funny line, but it's a perfect one.  Tiptoeing around a sleepy dad, kids hopped up on sugar, riding a bike ("Magic Bike," one of a couple songs not going for the laugh), these aren't uncommon topics for the genre, but they're sharply executed.  I realize that my personal favorite, "The Last Chicken Wing," might not match up with the preference of the 7-year-old, because Munslow's underplaying of a dramatic piano ballad about who's going to eat the last piece from an order of wings is subtle, but that 7-year-old will appreciate it when she's older.

Munslow doesn't spend the entire album going for yuks.  He also performs a couple longer stories (7 and 10 minutes long) -- "Old Joe's Bones" is gently scary and foreboding, while "Princess Pepper's Story" is a bit of self-empowerment.  And "I Can Still Say I Love You," which closes out the album, is a little bit of "Cat's in the Cradle" for the 21st century (but loving instead of depressing).

The 48-minute album will be most enjoyed by kids ages 5 through 9 (and by new parents of infants and toddlers).  As a side note, I thought the physical copy was one of the nicer packages in terms of layout and design -- by no means elaborate, I just thought Denise J.R. Bass' design, fearing Eric Fulford's illustrations, neatly captured the songs and stories within.

Munslow is now a parent and has perhaps an entirely new perspective on parenthood.  In addition's to his numerous gigs, he's led a variety show for a number of years.  Parenthood + a little bit of theatricality + excellent musician = a bunch of fun.  Simply said, Tiny Destroyer is my favorite Munslow album to date.  Definitely recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this album for possible review.

Listen To This: "Hold On to Your Dreams" - Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips (World Premiere)

Hold On To Your Dreams

Hold On To Your Dreams

Let's hear it for those artists who figure out what they want to do, outline a plan to achieve those goals, and then actually follow through.  (I say that as someone who has both succeeded and failed in doing so.)

Mista Cookie Jar has been releasing a single per month since fall 2014, and his latest single, "Hold On to Your Dreams," is his seventh in a row.  That's pretty impressive for music releases.  This new track has a different sound than a lot of the uptempo, electronic, soul stuff he's more known for, but CJ suggests that maybe it's his "Appalachian/country roots? --  [his] parents are Filipino but [he] grew up in Alabama/West Virginia before [he] became an LA dude LOL."  The song is a hoedown duet with Miss Tembra Campbell that CJ's been working on for years at backyard bonfires and late night jam sessions, so unsurprisingly its message of hard work and dedication feels lived-in, earning the use of the pots, pans, and pickle jars as accompaniment.

I'm pleased to provide the world-premiere of the stream -- listen below, and click through if you'd like to buy.

Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips - "Hold On to Your Dreams" [Bandcamp]

Video: "Thinking Machine" - They Might Be Giants

Thinking Machine

Thinking Machine

I don't think I've ever thought of them this way until now, but They Might Be Giants are models for me.  Yes, I've listened to them for nearly 30 years now, and they remain one of my favorite bands, but what I'm talking about is something different from artistic merit or affinity.

Rather, it's how they've managed to keep a musical career going, and not just going, but spinning off into new and challenging ways long after the expiration date of most rock bands.  There's the kids music, of course -- we'll get to that in a minute -- but there's the work-for-hire, the Instant Fan Club, Dial-A-Song Direct (a reboot of a 30-year-old idea featuring new songs and videos released weekly), and lots more, to say nothing of their artistic evolution.

I guess what I'm saying is that as someone hitting middle age (or who is there already), their constant evolution -- and artistic and what I'm presuming is some level of commercial success -- serves as some inspiration for how I should continue to approach my own life.

Having said all that, with the impending release of their new album Glean next week, they're turning their attention to their next 2015 album, which is reportedly a kids' album.  (The band is definitely releasing a kids' album this year, it's only the timing that is not yet publicly known.)  I've heard it rumored to be a sequel to No!, the freeform first kids music album from TMBG, as opposed to a sequel to any of the "Here Comes..." albums that followed.  (Alas, no sign that Here Comes Political Science is becoming reality.)

We don't know much more -- and really, we don't know much at all -- but there is speculation/hope on the Dial-A-Song Direct page for the download and the YouTube page for the video that this track might be from the forthcoming kids' album.  It wouldn't surprise me if that's the case.  I don't want to spoil the song by describing it too much, but it features vocal interplay between John Flansburgh and John Linnell that I really only hear in their kids' stuff.  Lyrically, it'll amuse older kids.  And the glitchy, kid-friendly -- even the dog peeing is kid-friendly -- video for the song is directed by David Cowles and Jeremy Galante, who've co-directed other kids' videos (and non-kids videos) for the band.

Basically, we shouldn't assume that this is from the upcoming kids' album, but we shouldn't not assume that, either.  Either way, fun stuff.

They Might Be Giants - "Thinking Machine" [YouTube]

Review: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! - Lloyd H. Miller

Glory Glory Hallelujah

Glory Glory Hallelujah

If I told you that Lloyd Miller recorded an entire album about Civil War characters (in many meanings of that last word), you should not be surprised one bit.  This most history-obsessed of kids musicians has been recording songs about the famous and the infamous and those who aren't known well enough to be either from almost the very beginning of his band The Deedle Deedle Dees.

But he's never been as focused on a single period as he is on his new solo album Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!, subtitled An Introduction to the Civil War Era for Kids.  It's labeled as Volume 1 of Miller's new Sing-A-long History project, suggesting listeners will get to hear more deep dives into history, which plays into Miller's interest in hearing from all the personalities.  One might expect a Civil War-based album to feature lots of songs about Lincoln, but the Great Emancipator is more of a side character -- aside from a setting of Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" (a duet with Marianne Tasick) and a recording of the Gettysburg Address featuring more than a dozen folks, Lincoln doesn't really make an appearance.

Instead, the album is more interested in characters like Baldy, the horse of Union General George Meade, whose head is mounted on the wall in a Philadelphia Museum, who get a song ("Baldy") to themselves.  (That one's an old Dees track, re-recorded here.)  Or Harriet Jacobs, a slave who escaped from her master, but who lived "Trapped in the Attic" for seven years before making it safely to freedom in the north.  (It's an awesome, urgent song.) "Weeksville" introduces listeners to one of the first free black communities in the United States, founded in Brooklyn before the Civil War.  It's not that Miller isn't interested in the War itself -- John Brown makes an appearance, as do songs of the time like "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd," "Marching Through Georgia," and "Tenting on the Old Campground."  But Miller would rather sing through the voices of the people whose voices haven't been drilled into our brain over the past 150 years, the slaves and soldiers (and, er, the horses), but use more modern sounds -- rock and hip-hop, for example -- to do so.

The 38-minute album will be most appropriate for listeners ages 7 and up.  You can listen to four tracks from the album here.  I also recommend the curriculum guide (a first draft can be downloaded here), which features lyrics, historical background, and suggestions for classroom activities and further reading.

Because of its slightly narrow focus, Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! won't be to everyone's tastes, certainly all the time.  But Miller gets credit for introducing the familiar big picture story of the Civil War through newer, less familiar lenses.  His enthusiasm for the material shines through, giving new voices to old voices, which lifts this above many educational albums in terms of appropriateness in a broader context (e.g., the minivan).  Highly recommended for the classroom setting, but recommended for all.

Note: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review.