Folks like Justin Roberts or Recess Monkey aren't the only kids' musicians who can write a musical earworm that will get stuck in your kid's (and, by extension, your) head. Here are a couple albums by lesser-known artists with their own fair share of hooks. Florida's Mr. Richard (Richard Peeples) has released his fourth album, Backyard Astronauts, which continues his lo-fi indie-pop work often filtered through the perspective of the wisecracking older brother (Sample lyric from "5-Second Rule": "A pizza slice landed right-side up / If I can just grab it fast enough / I count out loud one two three four / And hope it doesn't taste like floor"). And while he'll write a song making fun of not using "The Good Towels," he's occasionally sweet (on "Birthday Wish," the narrator wishes it was his "birthday everyday," in part so his best friend won't have to move). Peeples' music will remind listeners of R.E.M. and Jonathan Richman, which are not bad musicians to echo. (I also particularly enjoy the bass work on tracks like "Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl"). You can sample the music from the 31-minute album here (and download "Garbage Man" here). The album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. It's his best album yet. If Mr. Richard takes a jangly-pop approach from the '70s to his songs, on his second album Holy Cow!, Gerry Stanek AKA Roy Handy and the Moonshot draws from the rawk of the '60s, with a lot of British Invason influence. Like Mr. Richard, however, Stanek has a bit of a sarcastic streak that will enamor him to the young wiseacres (and perhaps their wiseacre parents). The title track is the most bracing opening song of the year (and my favorite on the album), but if you're looking for a gentler, almost wistful tune, I'd suggest "Tilt-A-Whirl," about going to the local fair and going on the titular ride. You can listen to "Holy Cow" and the '50s harmonizing on "When It's Time to Go" here (or listen to samples at Amazon or iTunes). The 16-minute EP is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7 and shows continued growth from his enjoyable debut I'm Gonna Be (Your Best Friend). Neither album is without flaws -- Backyard Astronauts could use a little more polish and lyrical tightening, while the songs Holy Cow! could probably be fleshed out just a little more (he's not the Ramones). But those are concerns more for the middle-aged parent who might have to listen to the disks repeatedly at the request of their kids who'll want to play them a lot. If anything, these albums prove that if you can't find kids music with a bunch of catchy melodies, you're not looking hard at all. Recommended.
There is nothing revolutionary at all about this new track titled "Garbage Man" from Florida's Mr. Richard. It's just a simple little ditty with a nice groove. But sometimes that's all your kid (or you) needs (or need, for the grammatical sticklers out there). Richard reports that he wrote the song "after seeing Jonathan Richman for the umpteenth time so he gets some props, too." It's the first single (of sorts) from Richard's forthcoming 2011 album. Even better for you, it's downloadable for free here.
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.)
I can't say that the latest video from the hardest-working man in kids music, Florida's Mr. Richard, breaks much new ground in the kids video world -- OK, it breaks no new ground whatsoever -- but I've always liked the track, so here you go: Mr. Richard - "Treehouse"
Florida's Mr. Richard has no kids of his own, but he's got plenty of fans in the single-digit set. He has three albums of kids' music to his credit, the most recent being Polka Dot Puzzle, and a most devoted fanbase (which helped him take the 2008 KidVid Tournament crown for his "Cheese" video). Mr. Richard (real name: Richard Peeples) recently sat down and answered a few questions about himself and his music. Read onward for his thoughts on his guitar influences, the problem with delayed gratifications and kids, and the most perfect pop song ever. Zooglobble: What were your musical influences growing up? Mr. Richard: When I was little, I knew all the words to “Bottle Of Wine” by the Fireballs, and my brother and I wore the grooves off our copy of “The Jungle Book”, which gave us an early appreciation of Louis Prima. Like most kids, I heard what my parents listened to on records and the radio, so that meant the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and all those great AM pop hits of the late 60’s/early 70’s. When I started learning the guitar in 9th grade, I was totally into the Rolling Stones, so it was all about Keith Richards. He’s such a rhythm master. I also loved Hendrix and Brian May, but it was Keith’s licks I tried to copy, although my playing is closer to another hero, Dave Davies of the Kinks. However, I am first drawn to the words and emotion in a song, so I always ended up being the front man in bands, with better guitarists handling the gun-slinging duties. Since you never stop “growing up”, other favorites are the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Replacements, Young Fresh Fellows, Wilco, Guided By Voices, and I am drawn to smart-alecks like Todd Snider and Randy Newman. How did you find yourself playing kids' music?
For a variety of non-music-related reasons, I've been slack in formally noting this on the front page of the site, but I wanted to extend my congratulations to Florida's Mr. Richard, who took on all comers in KidVid Tournament 2008, and took the title of KidVid Tournament 2008 with the help of a most remarkable fanbase. (I always knew he had an active fanbase -- I had no idea just how active until the Tournament.) Congratulations to him and all the other performers (especially New York's The Jimmies, who took on Mr. Richard with their video for "Cheese" and together broke all commenting records to smithereens in their epic semifinal matchup, extended.) I don't quite know what form KidVid Tournament 2009 will take, but it'll be here... Anyway, for one last time, here is Mr. Richard and "Cheese."