Remember how much I liked the video for "What a Big Wide World" from Essie Jain? Well, the director of Jain's video -- Carolina Melis -- was also responsible for a video for "Go Go Ninja Dinosaur," the Four Tet track from the Belle & Sebastian-curated kid-comp Colours Are Brighter (review). Very, very cool. Somebody please get Melis a contract to do a video game or permanent residency on Yo Gabba Gabba!, please. Four Tet - "Go Go Ninja Dinosaur" [Vimeo]
First Colours Are Brighter, now this: "This month brings the release of Songs for the Young at Heart, an album chiefly of cover versions of children's songs by different artists, curated by Stuart Staples and David Boulter of the indie band Tindersticks." Aside from the curious British use of the verb "curated," of note is the participation of Jarvis Cocker, Kurt Wagner (from Lambchop), and Stuart Murdoch (from Belle and Sebastian). The article says the album was released in England on Monday, January 22nd, but the V2 album page suggests Feb. 26th. Amazon.co.uk suggests both are correct. I know, it's confusing. Life is so not black and white, eh? Tracklisting: 1.Theme For The Young At Heart (Stuart Staples) 2. Uncle Sigmund’s Clockwork Storybook – Sung by Robert Forster (The Triffids) Originally by The Spinners in 1967 3. Florence’s Sad Song – Sung by Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian) From “Dougal & The Blue Cat” – 1972 4. White Horses – Sung by Cerys Mathews Originally by Jacky Lee in 1968 5.The Lion & Albert – Told by Jarvis Cocker Original monologue by Marriott Edgar 6. Robinson Crusoe – Performed by The Tindersticks Theme from the television programme from 1965 7. Hushabye Mountain – Sung by Stuart Staples From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – 1965 8. Morningtown Ride – Sung by Suzanne Osbourne 9. Inch Worm – Sung by Kurt Wagner (Lambchop) Hans Christian Anderson soundtrack 1952 10. Mary, Mungo & Midge – performed by The Tindersticks From the BBC TV series 1969 11. The Three Sneezes – Told by Martin Wallace 12. Puff, The Magic Dragon – Sung by ‘Bonnie’ Price Billy and Red Originally by Peter, Paul & Mary in 1963 13. Hey, Don’t You Cry – (Stuart Staples) sung by Stuart Staples
I can't say that my initial expectations for Colours Are Brighter, the kids' music compilation put together by Belle & Sebastian trumpeter/bassist Mick Cooke, were very high. Franz Ferdinand doing kids' music, along with a whole bunch of other bands, only a few of which were familiar to these American ears? The whole thing sounded nothing more than a quickie album thrown together to cash in on the sudden popularity of music for kids. (OK, a quickie album designed to raise money for Save The Children's "Rewrite the Future" campaign, but still.) Fear and misinformation are poor bases for making decisions on many things, and kids and family music albums are no different, my friends. To begin with, Cooke has been putting together the compilation for a couple years, so it's not like Cooke read the Billboard charts in March and thought, hey, I can do that. More importantly, the music's pretty good. Franz Ferdinand might just do the best job on the entire disk of putting together a kids' song that's in the spirit of the adult band. With its tinkling piano and scuffling drums, "Jackie Jackson" has enough of the more muscular sound of their music for adults, but the song's chief attribute is singer Alex Kapranos' spirited vocal turn on the story of greedy boy who likes to eat too many cakes. (The boy meets an unsavory, Roald Dahl-like ending.) Another band familiar to some are Snow Patrol, who resurrect an old song, "I Am An Astronaut," which seems like a picture book come to life (or sound), using swirly Snow Patrol sounds. (And, yes, "The Monkeys Are Breaking Out the Zoo" returns Belle and Sebastian to their more twee-pop sounds.) The less-familiar artists sound good here, too -- Rasputina sounds a bit like Bjork on the funky, angular "A Skeleton Bang" while The Barcelona Pavilion (who hail from Canada, I believe) turn in a post-punk "Tidy Up Tidy Up" that sounds They Might Be Giants-ian echoes. My favorite tracks? Four Tet (featuring Princess Watermelon) doing the dance-track "Go Go Ninja Dinosaur" and the Ivor Cutler Trio singing "Mud," a track that sounds like it was recorded 80 years ago, but was in fact recorded only 40 years ago. Not everything works great -- The Kooks' "The King and I" would sound good on their recent debut album, but if there was something that distinguished the song here from the rest of their work, I couldn't hear it. And the Flaming Lips' track, "The Big Ol' Bug Is The New Baby Now" is a half-sung, half-spoken word track on which, unfortunately the spoken words are too difficult to understand. There's nothing age-inappropriate here, but I'm guessing kids ages 3 through 9 are more likely to appreciate the music. If you want to hear the tracks, visit either the album's website or its Myspace page. The album is available as an import here Stateside, or you may want to go directly to Amazon.co.uk or CD-Wow. Colours Are Brighter is subtitled "Songs for children and grown ups too," which isn't a bad description. The songs stretch across the spectrum from being targeted right at the younguns to being pretty much "starter songs" for the bands' adult work. It's not a perfect compilation and there's not much of a unifying theme, but there are enough decent songs that it's worth exploring, particularly if you're interested in hearing a cross-section of mostly British, mostly current, pop-rockers. Recommended.
Another day, another song posted to the Colours Are Brighter website. Or, in the case of this particular day, two. The Kooks turn in a 311-esque "The King and I" which, well, doesn't really sound like it was all that kid-focused while Jonathan Richman does "Our Dog Is Getter Older Now," which, well, I can take or I can leave. The Four Tet track is still the coolest one I've heard. Yes, I will eventually stop talking about this, I promise. But I've gone this far down the path.
Well, it's not like Oct. 3rd isn't already busy enough as it is, CD-release-wise -- new stuff from Beck, the Decemberists, the Hold Steady, even the Killers (though their new album is getting absolutely miserable reviews). But, hey, even in the kids' music segment we got a new (sort of) Ralph's World. Not to mention a bunch of other stuff to look forward to. So here we go: Oct. 1: AudraRox - I Can Do It By Myself Oct. 3: Ralph's World - Welcome To Ralph's World Oct. 8: The Sippy Cups - Electric Storyland Oct. 10: Gothic Archies (Stephin Merritt) - The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events Oct. 16: V/A - Colours Are Brighter Oct. 17: V/A - New Orleans Playground (Putumayo) Oct. 24: Wee Hairy Beasties (Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan, Devil in a Woodpile) - Animal Crackers Oct. 24: V/A - Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook Vol. 1
They've posted Franz Ferdinand's song "Jackie Jackson" at the Colours Are Brighter Myspace page, but after constant buffering, all I get is about 30 seconds of Franz Ferdinand-y goodness about a greedy boy eating too much cake before an abrupt cutoff. Your mileage may vary, and hopefully it's better than mine. The Belle and Sebastian-compiled benefit album is set to be released in the UK on Oct. 16th.