My Favorite (and the Best?) Kids Music of 2017

This past year has been challenging in terms of writing about kids music here at the site.  There are a variety of reasons for that -- you can read this post for a few thoughts in that regard -- but the fact remains I haven't reviewed as many albums.  I'm still receiving -- and listening to -- a lot of kids music, but those thoughts haven't been translated into words on a screen.  It took me, sadly, 'til the end of April 2017 to write up thoughts on the best kids music of 2016, for an album award year that ended more than 6 months before.

As for this most recent year, I did once again submit my votes for the annual Fids and Kamily Awards I co-coordinate.  You can read all about the 2017 Fids and Kamily Award winners here, but I do feel compelled to list my own ballot in the same year the awards were announced.  (Small victories, amirite?)

Looking over this list, I'm once again struck by how my own personal favorites once again fell back on familiar and long-time names....

Fids & Kamily 2017 Award Winners Announced!

Lucky Diaz - "Made in L.A." album cover

Lucky Diaz - "Made in L.A." album cover

One of the highlights of every year for me is compiling and announcing the winners of the Fids and Kamily Awards.  F&K, as I call it (mostly because I'm constantly having to override computers' desires to autocorrect "Fids" to "Kids" and "Kamily" to "Family"), pulls together top ten lists from kids music DJs, critics, and others who spend a lot of time listening to kids music.  Seriously -- with the exception maybe of a few kids musicians, I can't think of anyone who listens to more.

So the albums selected by this group are inevitably solid picks, a fine introduction to the year's best and most distinctive music for kids and families.  This year's winner, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band's Made in L.A., is no exception to the rule -- it's fantastic.

But all the albums are worth a listen, and you can see the complete list of the Top 10 winners, along with ten more Honorable Mentions, over at this year's announcement page.  We even tried something new this year, a listing of judges' five favorite singles-only releases.  I personally will always be biased in favor of whole albums (and this year's winner, a conceptual album of sorts inspired by living in a particular place, illustrates the benefit of such a longer-form vessel), but there's no denying that more and more artists, including kindie musicians, are not choosing to wait to release a dozen songs in one fell swoop, and we wanted to see if we could capture the best of those restless musicians this time.

Anyway, thanks to the judges for voting, and thanks to the musicians for making such great music!

My Favorite (and the Best?) Kids Music of 2016

In past years, I have written a lot about my favorite kids music over the prior year -- here's my summary of the best kids music of 2015 -- but the past year or so has been more challenging for me in terms of writing reviews of kids music.  That doesn't mean that I still haven't been listening to a lot of kids music, just that I haven't felt compelled to share my thoughts about it as much.

I did, of course, submit my votes for the annual Fids and Kamily Awards I co-coordinate, and sadly I've never actually listed my albums here.  You can read all about the 2016 Fids and Kamily Award winners here, but for posterity's sake I feel compelled to list my own ballot, even if the eligibility window closed on Sept. 30, 2016, several months ago.  (As you look at the list below, you'll note that I was not big into distinctions this year -- a lot of ties.)

A lot of my overall thoughts for the year match those of the prior year -- lots of great music, but a feeling that I wasn't introduced to as many new artists as I have in years past.  And the changing economics I discussed in my 2015 summary continue apace -- I believe it is increasingly more difficult for artists to make a musical living in this genre unless they diversify greatly and move beyond album sales and touring in purely entertainment settings.  When everything is available on Spotify, you have to find your tribe, and I'm not sure if Spotify (and streaming generally) helps or hurts in that regard.

In any case, this is late enough as it is, so enough of my yappin', let's boogie!

1.  Explorer of the World - Frances England

2.  Why? - They Might Be Giants

3. (tie)  Are You Listening? - The Not-Its

3. (tie)  Phineas McBoof Crashes the Symphony - Doctor Noize

5. (tie) Infinity Plus One - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

5. (tie) Music Is Everywhere - Mista Cookie Jar

5. (tie) Ear Snacks: Songs from the Podcast - Andrew & Polly

5. (tie) Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León to the New York Island - Sonia De Los Santos

5. (tie) Wake Up and Sing - Red Yarn

5. (tie) Owl Singalong - Raffi

Fids and Kamily 2013 Music Awards Announced!

Transient

When I started this website more than nine years ago, I held in my mind two slightly contradictory notions about music reviews: 

1) There was not enough distinction between music reviews, especially for kids -- music was uniformly good in many reviews -- and therefore finer distinctions needed to be made to assist parents in allocating finite resources (monetary and time). 

2) Cultural reviews are inherently biased and basing one's own opinion of a cultural product on that of just one other person could be deficient.

In other words, individual reviews are both important and insufficient.

I've tried to write at this site in a way that honors both notions.  While I do tend to cover only music worth the time of at least some portion of my audience, there is some gradation in my reviews.  And I've always tried to convey the idea that these are just my opinions. Really well-informed opinions based on thousands of hours of listening to thousands of albums, but opinions nonetheless.

All of which is to say that I consider the founding of the Fids and Kamily Music Awards one of the best things I've done for kids music.  Since 2006, I, along with Bill Childs (Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child) and Gwyneth Butera (Gooney Bird Kids) (who took over for Amy Davis) have coordinated the awards, soliciting Top 10 lists from the people who spend more time listening to kids music than anybody in the country.  There's lots of great kids music out there, but Fids and Kamily highlights the best of the best.

This year's list of 2013's best albums features some familiar faces along with a few newcomers to the list.  It's 2013, so how about the Top 13 albums of the past year, led by Justin Roberts, returning to the top of the Fids and Kamily pile:

1. Justin Roberts - Recess
2. Frances England - Blink of an Eye
3. Alastair Moock - Singing Our Way Through-Songs for the World's Bravest Kids
4. Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell - Turn Turn Turn
5. Shine and the Moonbeams - Shine and the Moonbeams
6. Recess Monkey - Deep Sea Diver
7. The Not-Its! - Kidquake
8. Dean Jones - When the World Was New
9. Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - Pleased to Meet You
10. Justin Roberts - Lullaby
11. Lori Henriques - The World Is A Curious Place to Live
12. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band - Fantastico!
13. Lloyd H. Miller - S.S. Brooklyn  

More details on the year's results, including 10 more honorable mention albums and the year's top 6 debut albums can be found on the 2013 results page.

Thanks to all the judges for participating, Bill and Gwyneth for coordinating (especially this year) , Jeff Bogle from Out With the Kids for logo design, and most importantly to all the kids music artists who continue to make such quality music for families to enjoy.

(Oh, and look for my personal lists in the near future.)