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."
Ah, it's Grammy nominating time, and artists are doing as much lobbying as they can... in very subtle, non-obtrusive ways, because all that lobbying that movie folks do for Oscar votes is frowned upon by the Grammy folks. South Carolina Lunch Money band is by no means the only artist to toot their horns (go here to stream another excellent album on the Grammy ballot), but their page letting you download the album for free is, like the album and the band itself, understated, witty, and generous. So go here and download Original Friend for free. And tell someone else about it, even if "Grammy" means "grandmother" to them. (Need more convincing? Read this.)
The Ketchup Report hits double digits! It's summer, time for festival season, and I think it's safe to say that until a kindie act rocks the Pitchfork Festival (and maybe even after then), DidiPop has the coolest festival gig, playing a set for families at the Wilco-curated Solid Sound Festival at the MASS MoCA museum (yes, I know that's redundant) this upcoming weekend. Attention, good people of Chattanooga, Tennessee and environs, Dave Loftin and the Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl radio are sponsoring a show with Lunch Money on Sunday, July 10. I'm a fan of radio folks putting on concert series, so I hope this does well. Plus, the show will be ten tons of fun. More details here. I know, I'm a big fan of Kindiefest, but the Children's Music Network has been around for a long time, and if you attended Kindiefest, you might also get quite a bit out of attending their annual conference, which is in Cape Cod this year from September 16 through 18. Barry Louis Polisar, who has a lot of opinions about the current state of the genre and isn't afraid to share them, delivers the keynote. More details here.
Be it SXSW or Kindiefest, there are different reasons to see an artists' showcase at a music conference. You can see your favorite bands, or perhaps bands you're familiar with but are curious to see and hear them live. And sometimes you stumble upon a new favorite. The Kindiefest 2011 artists' showcase on Saturday night was for me a combination of all three, which suggests how well the lineup was put together. Now, I should note that though the lineup featured several artists I'd consider my favorites, I'd never actually seen any of them perform live. (That would have to wait for Sunday's public performance, for whom I'd seen half the lineup live.) But as someone who puts together shows here in the Phoenix area, that live aspect is important to me. This summary is long, but I encourage you to skim the entire thing, you never know when you'll find your new favorite artist. The lineup kicked off with Billy Kelly and the Blah Blah Blahs, faced with the unenviable task of starting the show while everybody filed back from dinner or a run to their hotel rooms. That and selecting from a bunch of great songs. They went meta ("This Is The First Song" -- they should close with that one day), sweet ("Family Garden"), doubly sweet ("Pen Pal," duetting with Lunch Money's Molly Ledford), and classic ("The Legend of Johnny Box"). The last song featured none other than Johnny Box himself, played by... well, let's just say by someone very familiar to Zooglobble readers. Good stuff. From there it was on to The Pop Ups, whose set was basically a very abbreviated version of their PASTA! musical. Were there puppets? Yes! Were there apes in capes? Yes! Was there lots of hand-clapping? Yes! Was there lots of pasta? Well, you'll just have to see the musical for yourself to see the answer. But it's hard not to see how the musical would be very popular with the 5-year-old set. The Pop Ups - "Pasta" [YouTube] But we were just getting started, with six more artists to go...
Time once again for all the news that didn't fit into a separate post due to time, interest, contractual, or legal obligations -- it's your favorite pun-titled file folder of a blog post, the Ketchup Report! Yaaay! (Cue Kermit the Frog wild arm-flailing here...) The World of Happiness single, the "We Are the World" of the kids' biz, "A World of Happiness," is here. Except your kids might actually want to listen to this new song when they become parents themselves. Sales of the single, produced by Tor Hyams and Joanie Leeds, benefit Autism Speaks. The single includes a whole host of folks besides Leeds and Hyams -- Molly Ledford (who gets the honor of leading off the track), Frances England, Ralph Covert... it just goes on and on. A bunch of the participants will be recording a concert later this month for broadcast on Sirius/XM Radio later on. Anyway, it's $1.29 well-spent right here. I could probably start a whole separate post listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. Heck, it's almost getting to the point where I could start a blog listing all the recent crowdfunding projects in the kids music world. I've been partial to Kickstarter, of course. The two most recent projects have been a Professor Banjo and his successful second-album project and Ryan SanAngelo and his not-one-but-two-Kickstarter-projects. But other sites do the same basic thing. Van Oodles didn't quite succeed in making a video for a song of his, but LA indie-rockers Ellen and Matt and Chicago's Laura Doherty are both looking for funds for their next disks. Should you feel so inclined, help out Ellen and Matt here and Laura for her new album Shining Like a Star in the widget there to the side. -- For a limited time, Doctor Noize's "Bananas" iWhatever app is free. Download the ever-so-slightly-educational app here. (Note: may no longer be free.) -- Finally, with Earth Day coming up, a it's time for Earth Day-related tunes. Dan Zanes has a new, original tune, "Hail the Creatures" written by Zanes for a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Zoo. You don't need to be near Philly to enjoy the track, just near an iTunes-enabled gadget that can download this, with proceeds benefiting the Zoo. (More details on the tune and the Zoo's new exhibit here.)... Bill Harley is offering a free download of "Keep It Green" from his 1996 album Big Big World -- you can get it here... And finally, DARIA is offering a mini-CD of 6 "earth friendly" songs, free just for the price of an e-mail address (and an earth-friendly suggestion).
Back with another list of random notes from around the kids music world... -- I'm a fan of Symphony Space's Just Kidding series, even 3,000 miles away, but I don't typically talk about single shows in that or any series. Having said that, I have it on good authority that Elizabeth Mitchell is planning on attending the Lunch Money Just Kidding concert on Saturday, January 29 (at 11 AM) and make a "guest appearance" for some songs. NYC fans, I expect you to be there -- not to be missed, I'm telling you. -- Continuing in the category of single shows meriting mention, if you're not tired out after the Lunch Money show (or if you're busy that morning), there's another show in NYC that afternoon. It's an event called "KIDS ROCK!" -- it's a big 'ol benefit concert for KIDS NEED A MELODY, which provides developmental music classes to young children living in the shelter system. It's also Saturday the 29th (from 1 to 4 PM) at Crash Mansion in the Bowery in NYC. It's hosted by Bob McGrath and will feature performances by Rebecca Frezza and Big Truck, Suzi Shelton with guitarist Steve Elliot, Jeremy Plays Guitar, The Fuzzy Lemons, Joanie Leeds, and Baze and His Silly Friends. Not bad, eh? -- Moving out of the city (sort of), word from Florida's Mr. Richard that he's leading David Weinstone's Music For Aardvarks classes in Orlando. Mr. Richard isn't the first kindie musicians with his own career to participate in these types of classes. Audra Tsanos has done MFA classes in NYC for years, Rebecca Frezza got her start doing Music Together, and Enzo Garcia is another. But Mr. Richard, who's definitely on the shortlist for the title of hardest-working guy in kids music, may be the first to join those types of classes after starting his own, independent kindie career. -- I noted this on Facebook yesterday, but the first video from Moona Luna is up. You can watch the currently exclusive video here (or just go straight to YouTube here). -- Frances England has a whole bunch of creative resolutions (designed very, er, creatively of course) and not only that she's pulled in a bunch of creative resolutions from folks like Caspar Babypants, Drew from Recess Monkey, Joe from the Okee Dokee Brothers and lots, lots more. Worth a perusal. -- Finally, in the category of self-promotion, Australian newspaper The Age dips its toes into the world of Australian kindie music and picks out the two best, Holly Throbsy and The Mudcakes. (It also cites this site, but not in a policeman-sort-of-way. The good way.)