Newborn: The Binkees

The Binkees! album cover

The Binkees! album cover

I'm not suggesting that everybody starting out in kids music send me an e-mail that describes the music they're making as "The Boogers with a west coast bent," but when I get such an e-mail, that's a good way to get me to listen.

Even better, I think that's a pretty darn good description for the music of The Binkees.  With a blast of punk air that to me that does have a lot of echoes of West Coast bands like Green Day, their self-titled debut album mixes covers of traditional kid favorites ("This Old Man," The More We Get Together") with some originals ("Night Light," "The Green Stuff").  Unlike some albums which take traditional kids' songs and run them through a genre blender, resulting in something that sounds like a challenge completed, this sounds like an actual album, with plenty of diversity in the tracks' musical approaches.  (Their take on "Michael Finnegan," which cycles through several different musical styles, is about the only one I've ever heard that's held my interest through that repetitive song.)  Ten solid songs in twenty minutes, that's how it's done.

The band is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and guitarist and lead singer Toño Ramirez notes that much of the album was recorded at Hyde Street Studios, which has recorded a ton of California rock and punk bands, including the Grateful Dead, the Dead Kennedys, Green Day, Cake, and more.  Don't know if The Binkees will have as long a career as those bands, but based on their debut, I hope there's at least a little more music to come.  The Boogers should be glad to welcome The Binkees to their corner of the kindie playground.

You can stream the entire album here or on Spotify via the widget below.

Newborn: Buni Kimono

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There aren't a lot of musical niches that haven't been invaded by the kids music world, but glam rock is one of the more sparsely used genres.

I really dig, though, the brand new song "Neon Nursery" from Buni Kimono, which is the brainchild of Boston-area musicians Gabrielle Brennan and Jake Brennan, who co-wrote and performed the song as a "passion project" for their son's first birthday.  The birthday party had a "record release" theme, so OF COURSE they wrote his first single.  (I mean, right?)

It's just a fun song, which you can stream and download for free below.  Here's hoping there's a second song and no sophomore slump.  (They've only got a year to write and record the follow-up, right?)

Buni Kimono - "Neon Nursery" [Bandcamp]

Newborn: Danny Lion (AKA Dan Flannery)

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I usually reserve this "Newborn" series for artists fairly new to the kindie scene, but while the name Danny Lion is new, there's a fair bit of experience behind it. 

Chiefly, it's Dan Flannery, who as half of the Flannery Brothers with his brother Mike, has put out a handful of kids music albums over the past few years.   Unlike a lot of kids musicians, whose music's sweet spot age-wise tends to creep up slightly over time, in this new project Flannery moves the other direction, pitching his music at a slightly younger crowd, pretty much exclusively preschoolers.  Flannery reports that the songs were written while he was teaching preschool and getting a master's in child development.

But we're mostly just interested in the music, and the tracks you can listen to right now are simple (ukulele, bass, cajon, and that's it) and a whole bunch of fun.   That's good enough for me.  If you like the simple arrangements of toddler favorites like Caspar Babypants, or Old Town School of Folk Music Wiggleworms CDs, I think this merits your attention.

Newborn: Bears and Lions

There are lots of words and pictures to share from Kindiefest 2013, and I'll be doing that shortly.  But I didn't want too much time to pass by before sharing the music from Bears and Lions, a new band from Hollywood, South Carolina.

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I think there were other sets that were more popular and frankly better at the industry showcase on Saturday night.  But I'm pretty sure if I polled those of us huddled stage right, the set that had us laughing the most and saying something like, "I have no idea what that was, but it might have been brilliant" was from this duo of two guys dressed up as a bear and a lion wearing basketball uniforms and strumming guitars, telling the story in song of a bear and a lion who... oh, what does it matter?  They played a song called "Mediocre Kid" which might just be an anthem -- yes, it's about an average -- maybe even mediocre -- kid, but the song somehow manages to be inspirational.  For the song "Good Boy," they managed to get Recess Monkey's Drew Holloway to act like a dog.  It was just a loopy, occasionally surreal performance that resulted in people loudly shouting "Pancake Sweepstakes!" in unison.

A lot of people were reminded of The Telephone Company, and I totally get that (duo? check; surreal? check), but the first band that came to my mind was The Thinkers (duo? check; surreal? check).  There's even a touch of the late, lamented Quiet Two in there, at least if they had been influenced by Southern rock rather than the British Invasion.  [Edit: Not to mention, of course, fellow showcaser Ratboy Jr., though their songs are more whimsical than Bears and Lions'.]

So I haven't quite made up my mind yet about them, but I can't wait until they're ready to unleash an entire album onto the world.  Listen to 5 songs below plus watch a couple live videos (not from Kindiefest), and pick up a free track here.

Newborn: Johnny and Jason

JohnnyAndJason.jpgIt's a little odd to be discussing the Portland duo Johnny and Jason in my "Newborn" series when I've reviewed not one but two albums from half of the duo. But this new band from Johnny Keener (creator of the aforementioned albums) and Jason Greene feels sufficiently new to give it the "Newborn" treatment. They've just released their first album Go, Go... Go, Go, Go, and it's definitely a contender for one of the year's best debuts. The roots rock sound is somewhat familiar to listeners of Keener's work, but the hooks are hookier and the sound slightly fuller. "I Can Fly" kicks the album off with some country-fried punk, "What's Your Pet's Name" is a dreamy song with a kids' chorus, and "Corn Cob Man" or "Ride Wagon Ride" jangle just enough. And the album closer "Tomatoes and Toast" is a simple but beautiful homage to gardening. The best part for you is that not only can you stream the album below but, for a limited time, you can download the whole thing. For free. Portland's reached the tipping point where they're now a serious kids music town. Johnny and Jason are just one symbol of that creative explosion.

Newborn: The Thinkers

OhZooty_lowres.jpgAfter I heard Oh Zoooty!, the debut from The Thinkers, a couple times, I e-mailed the band, of which I knew very little, and said, "I hope you won't take this wrong way, but who the hell are you guys?" Because what they've created is one of those utterly imaginative works that ten minutes in, you'll either have turned it off or -- more likely -- be totally smitten. So who they are is this: Bo (Bo Moore) and Moy (Matt Saporito), or as they replied in my e-mail, "two best buddies in our mid 20s from Boston & New York." They've actually been working on their album for more than a year now, but are only recently unleashing it upon the world. Listen to the album, I implore you, here. My favorites -- for the moment -- include "Chocolate Milk & Ice Cream Cake," "Froggy Hop," and "Mushy Berry Pie." It's a pretty unique sound, sometimes sea chanty, sometimes British Invasion, but if you miss the sounds of The Quiet Two or the Telephone Company (OK, they're still around), you won't want to miss this. They'll also be making their way across the country this summer, starting in Boston in about a couple weeks, making their way to Sacramento by the beginning of August. Check out their tour schedule and if you see some gaps near where you live (like I have in Arizona in mid-July), I think you know what to do...