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.) 1. 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."
Oh, to have the energy of Pepito, the titular squirrel the latest EP of Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke. I'd be able to knock out these reviews in four, five minutes flat. Perhaps I could do that if I just wrote something like, "I've yet to hear a Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke song that I haven't liked" and left it at that. But you probably expect just a little bit more (even though it's true). So, then, in brief, the six songs of Hey Pepito!: 1) "Pepito": a gigantic adrenaline rush that might, in the long run, get a little wearisome when you listen to it for the four-hundredth time, as your kids will invariable make you do. (Purchase the album via Little Monster (or the widget below) and get an e-copy of a Wilde-drawn comic featuring Pepito to boot.) 2) "Don Mario's Song": Another ear-wormy chorus, with the added benefit of an extended Latin percussion break, each instrument named in turn. I love "Pepito," but I think this is the best song on the album. 3) "Talking Big Pet Pig": This pig looms large in KWMC iconography -- here he gets an origin story, done Dylan-pre-electric-style. 4) "It's So Good": Previously released, is that a samba I hear? 5) "Mary the Fairy": Also previously released, the story of a flight-challenged and inattentive fairy. 6) "Summer Lullaby": As tender a song as "Pepito" and "Don Mario's Song" are rave-ups. The songs are most appropriate for kids ages through 3 through 7. Listen to the whole EP by streaming it via the player below. Hey Pepito! is a fun 22 minutes, a worthy albeit brief follow up to their wonderful debut Rise and Shine. Or, to put it another way, I've still yet to hear a Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke song that I haven't liked. Definitely recommended. [Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review.]
Have you had your coffee yet? Your kids had their chocolate milk? No? Well, don't worry about it. Just stream the first song on this new EP from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, you'll all be ready to conquer the world. (Or at least power your bike up the hill.) Titled Hey, Pepito!, the 6-song EP features four new songs, including the aforementioned title track, the only-slightly-less hyper "Don Mario's Song," "Talking Big Pet Pig," which is, well, the story of the "Big Pet Pig" as told by Bob Dylan, and a very sweet "Summer Lullaby." (It also features "It's So Good" and "Mary the Fairy.") The EP is officially released July 1, but you can stream it below.
We are down to the last Round 2 matchup in KidVid Tournament 2011. It features the Leadbelly Regional, hosted today by Bill over at Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child. The winner of the matchup between the #1 seed, Caspar Babypants' "$9.99" and the #2 seed, Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke's "Big Pet Pig," will be the last entrant in the KidVid Tournament 2011's final four videos. The competition is for today and today only, so head here, watch both videos, and vote your heart. Or your head. Or toes. Whatever, really.
It started with my favorite kids music videos of the year. Then you voted on your favorites at Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl. Then you went to Out With the Kids, Ages 3 and Up!, Gooney Bird Kids, and Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child to vote in Round 1. Maybe you even went to Dadnabbit (or should've, anyway) to read Jeff's handicapping of the brackets. All that, and we still have seven matchups to go. Here, then, are the Round 1 winners who will be facing off in Round 2. Ella Jenkins Region: The Not-Its!, "Green Light, Go!" (2) vs. Sugar Free Allstars, "Cars and Trucks" (4) Pete Seeger Region: Keller Williams, "Hula Hoop To Da Loop" (1) vs. Recess Monkey, "Black Hole in My Room" (2) Leadbelly Region: Caspar Babypants, "$9.99" (1) vs. Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, "Big Pet Pig" (2) Woody Guthrie Region: The Bazillions, "Preposition" (1) vs. Debbie and Friends, "Cinderella" (2) Some of the winners won in blowouts, some in squeakers, but all of these (friendly) face-offs will get even closer here in this next round. Even though I like the Sugar Free Allstars video (it made my Top 25 list, after all), it makes me a little sad that John and Mark's "A Counting Error," my favorite video of the year, didn't make it to round 2, but that's the perils of fandom, right? Round 2 will start on Saturday, March 26. Which matchup will kick off Round 2 and where will it be found? Well, you'll just have to wait for Saturday to find out...
We've had an exciting weekend of KidVid Tournament 2011 action, but we're not done yet with the first round. Today's action moves down south as Gwyneth over at Gooney Bird Kids is hosting two matchups for the Leadbelly Regional: -- Caspar Babypants, "$9.99" (1) vs. The Verve Pipe, "When One Became Two" (4) -- Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, "Big Pet Pig" (2) vs. Holly Throsby, "Fish & Mice" (3) Don't forget -- if you're looking for commentary before or after you vote (today only!) Jeff Giles over at Dadnabbit is providing commentary on the whole bracket. Read his take on today's matchups here.