Best Kids Music 2011: Top 25 Albums

The high point in my list of the best kids music of 2011 is this, my list of my favorite kids music albums of the year. By "year," again, I mean albums with Nov. 1, 2010 through Oct. 31, 2011 release dates available to the general public. That means albums like Laura Veirs' Tumble Bee, with a Nov. 8, 2011 release date, have to wait another 12 months before appearing in this list. (I would be shocked -- albeit incredibly delighted -- if there were 25 albums better than that particular one in the next year.) I do use the word "favorite" advisedly. I receive something approaching 300 family music albums every year. I review maybe 20% of those. Last year I picked out 20 albums, and cutting off this list this year at 20 just seemed cruel. But, as it turns out, increasing the number on the list to 25 didn't make things any easier. Albums from folks like Laura Doherty, Chip Taylor, Todd McHatton, and ScribbleMonster -- albums I genuinely liked -- didn't make the list. That's what happens when albums in the top 10% of everything I heard this year can't fit into the number of slots available; I had probably about 40 albums I was seriously considering for this list. So the difference between what goes in this list and what stays off is as much about personal preferences as it is about "objective" quality. (That's why I came up with the idea for Fids and Kamily, thinking that the personal preferences of many folks would be a much better approximation of "best.") In any case, here are those 25 albums, ranked from most favorite to a little less most favorite, that I (and we) most appreciated this year. (As always, the top 10 reflects my Fids and Kamily ballot.) SingAlong.jpg1. Caspar Babypants Sing Along! [Review] "I really, really like Sing Along! -- the Caspar Babypants disks have been favorites at our house for a long time, and I see no reason why this new album won't join its predecessors in heavy rotation. If he can keep it up, Chris Ballew might just create a body of work for preschoolers to rival Raffi's."

Video: "A Twinkle Baa" (Readeez-Style) - Alastair Moock

It's the song (and video) so good it needs a sequel. Yes, Alastair Moock's mangled classic "CBAs" from his fine These Are My Friends disk has a second video. It's actually for the brief "A Twinkle Baa" reprise at the end of the album, featuring Moock's daughters joining in. While this one is animated, too, this time the animation comes courtesy of Readeez mastermind Michael Rachap, who knows a good tune when he hears it. Alastair Moock - "A Twinkle Baa" (Readeez-style) [YouTube]

Itty-Bitty Review: These Are My Friends - Alastair Moock

TheseAreMyFriends.gifTrue confession time: I almost never listen to Woody Guthrie's kids' music records. Oh, sure, I liked them, but if you check out that link, you'll note that while I think Guthrie's a great and prolific songwriter, I'm not a big fan of Guthrie's voice or his production. (Note: neither is Robert Christgau, it would seem.) Which brings us to Massachusetts musician Alastair Moock and his new album These Are My Friends. On this, his second album for kids, Moock dives even deeper into the wordplay and preschool-friendly songs that were Guthrie's strengths. Guthrie would be proud to call many of these songs his own (heck, he already has, at least in the case of "Mail Myself To You," which Moock covers appealingly). "CBAs and a Twinkle Baa" is a stone-cold mixed-up kindie classic, guaranteed to leave a group of 4-year-olds laughing. (Or hopelessly confused, if the inscrutable "From Me To You" hasn't already.) And unlike Guthrie's lo-fi productions and voice, Moock's got an appealing (if gravelly) voice and a relaxed but clean sound on the album. Moock also draws on a wide variety of guest artists, including Rani Arbo (the chipper "Feets Up"), Anand Nayak (who helped produce the album and joins Mook and "Born to Dance"), Mark Erelli (a bluesy "Ladybugs' Picnic"), and Kris Delmhorst (a lovely "Green Green Rocky Road"). And none of the guests feel out of place, tacked on just to impress -- "These Are My Friends," indeed. The 37-minute album will be most appreciated by kids ages 3 through 7. You can listen to samples here. On These Are My Friends, Alastair Moock provides fresh folk for fresh folk, a worthy 21st-century spiritual successor to Guthrie's music. It's a solid album Woody would dig. Recommended. Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.

Video: "Born to Dance" - Alastair Moock (with Anand Nayak)

TheseAreMyFriends.gifI don't often post live videos here, but I dig this one from Alastair Moock. It's for "Born to Dance," off his forthcoming album These Are My Friends, recorded earlier this month at Boston's Club Passim. The performance also features Anand Nayak, who's all over the new disk. (I think that's Mark Erelli on harmonica as well, not to mention Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem's Scott Kessel on drums.) Nayak'll be on hand for some of Moock's other kid-friendly gigs, such as at the 92Y Tribeca in October, so if you want to catch 'em live (and live on the East Coast), you'll have a few more chances. Alastair Moock with Anand Nayak - "Born to Dance" [YouTube]

The Ketchup Report, Vol. 11

It's time for another roundup of all things ketchup related... OK, not really, it's just a variety of stuff that caught my eye (and ear) since, well, the last Ketchup Report. This one is an all-video edition. Except for these words right here. And the ones below. First off, this is how you do a promo for a kindie album. A very effective teaser for Alastair Moock's forthcoming album These Are My Friends featuring Moock and Annad Nyack. If there was a tagline for the teaser, it might be "It's just crazy enough to work!"

Video: "A Cow Says Moo" (Live) - Alastair Moock

I know you've heard a little bit about Alastair Moock and his first album for kids, A Cow Says Moo, and I think you'll probably hear more as the album gets into more and more hands, but for the moment I just wanted to post this video, which spotlights the benefits of getting a chorus of kids to sing along with you in an appealingly raggedly manner. Can't overdo it, of course, but used sparingly, like crushed red pepper, it adds flavor. Also: I'm hypnotized by the drummer's twirling of the drumstick in the right hand. Alastair Moock - "A Cow Says Moo" (Live) [YouTube]