This song's been floating around for awhile now, but never in quite such a blogger-friendly form. It's "Mary the Fairy" from Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, and Little Monster Records has offered it for sale, either by itself or in some other combinations. They also note that it'll be part of Little Monster's Magical Creatures, Musical Pets compilation, available "next year." Of course, the compilation has been promised for so long that I wonder if it isn't as mythical as the creatures supposedly sung about within. (I kid because I love.)
I think the first time I became aware of the Topspin media widget was a couple years ago when David Bryne and Brian Eno promoted their new album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today using it. As someone who writes a website, the content-filled nature of the widget appealed to me, but it appealed to me as a fan as well. Sure, from a listener perspective, it's just a way to give an e-mail address to get an mp3, but it did it in such an elegant and well-designed way that it typically was the only type of widget that I'd actually respond to. In time I realized that kids musicians were starting to use the widget, too. At this point enough of them are using the platform that I thought it'd be worth asking the users what they thought of it and its good (and bad) points. Among the artists who responded were Debbie Cavalier, Jeremy Toback, and Kevin Salem from Little Monster Records, along with one of his artists, Key Wilde. I also talked some with Mike King from Berkleemusic -- if you need an overview of Topspin, you could do far worse than checking out the videos King made with Topspin CEO Ian Rogers. What made you interested in working with Topspin? Most artists came to Topspin via some personal connection -- Debbie Cavalier first heard about Topspin nearly two years ago when, as the Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee, they started to plan the development of the “Marketing Music with Topsin” course. Jeremy Tobck knew Topspin cofounder Shamal Ranasinghe when he was developing the idea for Topspin, and was "super intrigued" by his idea of deepening the direct relationship between artists and fans. Toback says that Ranasinghe, dug Renee & Jeremy, wanted then to be beta users, and "helped convince us that we had built enough on our own to benefit" from the platform. As for Kevin Salem, he says that Robert Schneider’s manager told him about it, though he "was slow to respond." (Robert Schneider is another Topspin artist, both for the Apples in Stereo as well as his Little Monster Robbert Bobbert project.) But the Topspin representative was an "old acquaintance" from Salem's time as a solo artist after giving him a quick tutorial, Salem thought it could "help plug the considerable holes in [his] physical distribution network." He also says he thought it could help create "unique products" for the fans and "shift the ratio of physical-to-digital sales in our genre." [I'd note that at Kindiefest, Salem noted that the next Little Monster release, a compilation, will be entirely digitally distributed.]
I have two words for this, the video for "We R Super Heroes," from Robert Schneider's debut Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine album. TOTALLY. AWESOME. No, scratch that -- it challenged "totally awesome" to a 100-yard dash and crossed the finish line before "totally awesome" got out of the blocks. Robbert Bobbert and the Bubble Machine - "We R Super Heroes" [Spinner]
One of the cool parts of doing the kids music website thing is that folks let slip all sorts of interesting news via Facebook or in e-mails to me. News about shows, albums, collaborations, etc. Of course, unless somebody specifically says, "run with that" I don't actually mention it on the site. If I don't have something public to cite, then, well, I don't post. So I'm glad that I finally -- finally! -- get to announce, like, three different bits of news I've known for a some time now. Four, maybe -- depends how you're counting. First, and most importantly, the great duo Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke have signed with Little Monster Records. That's the cover for the album -- Rise and Shine! -- that'll be coming out later this spring at the top. If you haven't heard their stuff, I highly recommend that you get on over to their site and listen to some older versions of the tracks on the CD (all the tracks have been subsequently modified in some way for the album). But that's not all...
Despite the fact that jazz is one of the great American art forms, its current popularity among the population is not exactly mass-market. As a result, I'm hesitant to call Let's Go Everywhere, the first kids music CD from the popular modern jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood, a good kids' jazz CD. Because if I did so, I'm afraid that a lot of people that would otherwise enjoy the CD would just tune me out. Take the insanely catchy title track, which, unlike MMW's previous discography, features vocals (by Tim Ingham) and lyrics that beg for singalongs. The track, which echoes Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere," features throwaway lines like "Tijuana, Grand Bahama, don't forget to call your mama." It's propulsive, hand-clappy, and a poppy hit -- it certainly won't sound like jazz to most people. Or one of the better songs begging for kid-interaction I've heard, "Where's the Music?," a funky jam that breaks down every now and then only to be started up by gleeful kids begging, nay, shouting, "Where's the music?!?" That's not all. "Pat a Cake," a punky rap featuring a number of kids -- a quick track which, judging by the number of e-mails about it I received after my recent NPR chat, will be heard in a lot of households this spring. John Lurie's spoken-word piece "The Squalb" features gentle musical accompaniment and manages to be mysterious and reassuring all at once -- if you need 3 minutes and 17 seconds of silence via rapt attention in the car, play this track. I don't mean to give the tracks which do sound more jazzy short shrift, because those are excellent, too. "The Cat Creeps" has a funky, slinky bass line and tinkly piano that absolutely sounds like a cat creeping. "Let's Go" sounds like it could've been recorded 45 years ago in some West Coast studio (except for the kids occasionally shouting "Let's go!" in the background). And for those of you looking for a little deconstruction of classic tunes, "Old Paint" (on which the trio channels the Vince Guaraldi Trio) and a nearly unrecognizable (but fun in its own way) "All Around the Kitchen" will fit the bill. Out tomorrow, the 40-minute album will appeal mostly to kids ages 4 through 9, but if you're not listening to this and having fun, I don't know what to say. You can listen to four tracks at the album's Myspace page and a couple here. In the liner notes, both the band and Tim Ingham sound almost surprised at how well the album turned out. The band says "the best part was collaborating, improvising and making new friends. Who this was going to be one of our favorite records." Mine too. That sense of fun and wonder comes through loud and clear on every track. So rather than calling Let's Go Everywhere a good kids' jazz CD, let's call it what it really is -- a great CD. Period. Saying this when the year is barely a week old sounds like damning with faint praise, but it's true -- Let's Go Everywhere is the first great kids' CD of 2008. Highly recommended.
One of my favorite songs from the 1990s was the soaring alterna-rocker "Lighthouse Keeper," by a musician by the name of Kevin Salem. Fast-forward a decade, and in this brave new world of kids and family music, I was surprised and, well, pleased to hear that Salem had started up Little Monster Records, a label just for kids' music. Salem, who spends much of his time now producing others' records rather than recording his own, along with his wife Kate Hyams, who spent many years as a label executive, have put together an exciting roster of artists who show every sign of releasing music that is definitely not the typical kids' music fare. Kevin Salem recently took the time to answer a few questions. Read on for how views on kids in the recording studio have changed over the year, his vision for the label, how his least favorite baseball team inspired his label's latest record, and future projects... Zooglobble: What music did you listen to growing up? Kevin Salem: There were a few different sources for me growing up. My parents were Arabic and played a lot of Arabic music and I grew up in a small coal and steel town where there was a lot of rootsy music, so that stuff was always in the air. My dad was a jazz singer and trumpeter, so the first songs I sang were things like ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘Sunny Side of the Street.’ I lived with two sisters and my cousins who are quite a bit older than me and turned me on to a lot of the things I have loved all my life -- the Beatles and Stones, Dylan, Motown, Neil Young... all things countercultural. I remember watching the Beatles at shea stadium on TV and wondering what was wrong with all the teenage girls in my family. When I was 5, some teenagers from my family’s church had a cover band called ‘Grapes of Wrath.’ I saw them play 'Little Bit of Soul’ at a church picnic and decided on the spot that I was gonna be a rock and roll guitarist. It was the best decision I ever made.