Listen To This: Little Miss Ann Nodcast Podcast

ClapForLove.jpgI didn't get to this earlier, but Little Miss Ann's Land of Nod Nodcast Podcast is a fun little listen, featuring some of Ann's best songs from her albums Clap For Love and Music For Tots. Besides some trivia regarding Ann's hometown, Chicago, I also found out that offering cupcakes and fruit tarts as prizes in trivia contests seems to work very well. A tip for aspiring kids musicians out there...

An Open Letter to Residents of Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area

So I've been getting newsletters from Elizabeth Mitchell on a regular basis talking about her late summer tour of the West Coast. I knew, therefore, that she was going to be singing with Renee & Jeremy earlier this month (Suni Paz in LA was a surprise) and Frances England and Charity Kahn this past weekend. I even knew (I think) that she was going to sing with Justin Roberts last month. (They sang the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning.") What I didn't expect is that nobody was going to upload any video to the Internet. C'mon, people! I don't have one of those fancy iPhones or other cell phones with a camera in them, but somebody out there must've gone to the show with one in hand. And now I hear that the lads from Recess Monkey are going to be joining Elizabeth on stage for their shows in Seattle this Saturday. Seattle -- you can do it! Video! Video! Video! (Hey, I gave you, like, fiveRecess Monkey videos.) (Note: Unless, of course, recording is expressly prohibited by the terms and conditions of the ticket entry. Then, er, forget I ever asked.)

Review: Pop Fly - Justin Roberts

PopFlyCover.jpgIt's unfair, but I'll start this review of Pop Fly, the sixth solo kids' music album from Chicago's Justin Roberts, by saying I think Meltdown, Roberts' fifth solo kids' CD is easily on the shortlist of best kids' music CDs of the decade. Clearly, I had high expectations for the new CD, which is being released today. Never fear, Pop Fly is a hit. (OK, I promise -- that's the only baseball-related phrase I'll use here. Read on fearlessly, folks.) If Roberts isn't the best songwriter in the rock/pop/folk heart of kids' music, he certainly doesn't have many peers. The new album has a number of outstanding tracks that again showcase his songwriting strengths -- nifty lyrics that flow effortlessly ("Pop Fly," "Kickboard, Baby, Yeah"), carefully crafted portraits of life at home ("From Scratch", "The Backyard Super Kid"), and an affinity for singalong choruses ("Stay-at-Home Dad", "Field Trip"). If some of the lyrics don't quite work -- a stay-at-home dad who kids' clothes don't match very well seems a bit cliched -- it's forgivable because so much else does. Roberts' melodic and musical sense is once again ably abetted by fellow musician Liam Davis, who again produces Roberts' CD. The album sounds great, from the faux Dylan (and loose chorus) of "Henrietta's Hair" to the strings on "The Backyard Super Kid" to the mellow surf sounds of "Kickboard, Baby, Yeah." And, yeah, there are a bunch of horns, a Roberts habit from almost the very beginning. The alterna-pop sound mixes in hints of Fountains of Wayne and ELO, and every great forgotten '80s alternative hitmaker, along with Burt Bacharach. It's a heady mix. The overall mood of the album is somewhat more reflective than Meltdown, and maybe for that reason I liked Pop Fly a little bit less. It's maybe a little bit more in the Not Naptime camp -- another fine album, but more downtempo than Roberts' best-known songs. The irrepressible protagonists of "Meltdown" or "Ten Little Cookies" don't make an appearance here. Again, the songs are excellent, they're just a little more mellow. And I think Roberts' best songs are the less mellow ones. Having said that, my favorite song on the CD -- my favorite song of the year thus far, kids or adult -- is the tender "Fruit Jar". It's a stone-cold folk classic, with lines like "Life ain't no fruit jar / Stuck in a cellar / Sometimes you've just got to / Spin that old propeller / Watch it rise up / Way past the moon / And if love don't find you / You know it's going to be there soon." The song itself is beautifully constructed -- add the duetting voice of Nora O'Connor (who also appeared on Yellow Bus) and Davis' nifty guitar work, and it's one of those songs that should carry on far beyond this album. It's a tremendously affecting tune, and consdering how much some of Roberts' other songs have affected me ("Cartwheels and Somersaults," for example), that's high praise. The album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 8. You can find Roberts' CDs in an increasing number of physical stores, but if you want to hear songs from the 37-minute album, you can hear "Pop Fly" by checking out Roberts' Radio or his (new) Myspace page (or check out snippets at your favorite online retailer). Pop Fly is another masterfully crafted collection of songs which will have broad appeal just like the best in kids' literature. If Roberts has taken a slightly more mellow approach to his songs this time around, they're no less appealing. Highly recommended.

Nine Days of Great Kids Music in Chicago

Now, Kidzapalooza will rock Chicago August 3 through 5 (for more details, see here). But the previous weekend is, well, pretty darn good in its own right if you'd rather fight local neighborhood throngs than fight the Pearl Jam and Ben Harper-obsessed throngs in Grant Park. I've been waiting to post about the Summer on Southport festival on the 28th and 29th because I wanted to know the times, and I'm glad I did... check out the lineup. Not only does it include Lunch Money... and ScribbleMonster... and Justin Roberts, it also includes, well, see for yourself: Saturday Lunch Money 10:00 am Seussical the Musical 11:00 am Scribble Monster noon Little Nashville 12.30 pm Girl Authority 2:00 pm Justin Roberts 2:00 pm Sunday School of ROCK 11:30 am Ralph’s World 2:00 pm Girl Authority and Justin Roberts will be playing on different stages Saturday, though the '80s references on Roberts' classic Meltdown! might be a little bit up their alley. Hey, Chicago, did I miss anybody?

What Kind of Cold Beverages Do Kids Like?

Well, thanks to Karen in Chicago, who attended the Kidzapalooza kickoff party in Chicago a few days back, this question is a little more relevant. I noted the Kidzapalooza lineup a few days ago, but Karen in Chicago went to the party and noted an additional performer: G. Love. Now, the only kids' song I know G. Love has recorded is "Jungle Gym," with Jack Johnson on the Curious George soundtrack. Assuming he's not going to play that song a dozen times straight (how punk would that be?), maybe he's got some new stuff up his sleeve. Heck, if you can tolerate a few references to adult beverages, "Cold Beverage" itself would be easily G-rated.

Chicago Loves the Kids, Too (Kidzapalooza Lineup Announced)

So even though Lollapalooza is a good six weeks after the Austin City Limits Festival, those good folks in the City of Broad Shoulders just got around to announcing their Kidzapalooza lineup. Slowpokes. As with the Austin Kiddie Limits lineup, this one too can be divided into two camps: 1) Adults Playing For Kids 2) Kids Playing For Adults In the first category, you have the following (artists playing ACL Fest noted with a happy *): -- Peter Himmelman: Kids' singer-songwriter of the highest order -- Wee Hairy Beasties: Americana/insect-based rock from Jon Langford, Sally Timms, and other Bloodshot Records staples -- The Sippy Cups* -- Psychedelic-inspired rock and pop -- CandyBand: Punk music from four Detroit-area moms -- The Hipwaders: Occasionally retro power-pop -- Q Brothers* -- Hip-hop -- Peter DiStefano & Perry Farrell: This has nothing to do with their appearance here (replicating their appearance last year), but that new Satellite Party album cover is one of the weirdest I've seen in some time. (Note: "Weirdest" is a gentle term for "bizarre." Or "awful.") In the second category are bands made up of youngsters or recently-adulted young folks. Again, I don't know much about these bands, though I believe the Blisters and the Alvin Ailey Dance School both showed up at last year's Lollapalooza. -- Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars* -- The Blisters: Oddly enough, Jeff Tweedy's kid is playing Lollapalooza while his dad isn't. (Even though Wilco -- but not the blisters -- are playing the ACL Fest. Weird.) -- Rock For Kids Youth Jam Band: I keep having this feeling that they're gonna break into an extended version of My Morning Jacket's "Mageetah." -- Alvin Ailey Dance School -- John Yost's Rhythm Revolution Lollapalooza is August 3-5, 2007 in Chicago's Grant Park. And for those of you looking to score some free tickets, the Paul Frank Store in Chicago is hosting a party this Saturday, June 2, from 11 AM to 1 PM. You can tell me how those Paul Green's School of Rock All-Stars sound, and maybe win some free tickets.