Review: Deep Sea Diver - Recess Monkey


Another summer, another Recess Monkey album.   No kindie band challenges the kids music reviewer as much as the Seattle trio: their amazing productivity (at least one album a year for the past eight years, plus a second one to be released later this year) and consistently high quality makes it difficult for humble reviewers like this one here to figure out how to say what is essentially the same thing ("this is really good -- you should get it") in new ways.  (No, I will not be writing this review in limerick form.)

All the qualities that have endeared Recess Monkey to thousands of families nationally from their Pacific Northwest perch are in ample display on their brand new album Deep Sea Diver . Humor (the wry look at those scavenging birds in the mellow Beatles-esque "Seagull" or the punny title of "Choral Reef"), kid-focused topics (disco-dancing with "Walkie Talkies" and complaining about being short in "Shrimp"), and, yes, hooks galore.

I mean, what did you expect on an album themed around the ocean and water -- of course  there would be hooks.  The catchiest tracks are front-loaded -- "Tambourine Submarine" is a pure pop hit, and the samba-tinged "The Deep End" will have you singing along with the chorus or dancing (if not both).  But there are some gems buried on side 2, as it were -- "Seagull" is a tiny gem of a portrait and the back-and-forth sonic touches on "Making Waves" neatly echo the song's subject.

Musically, Drew Holloway and Jack Forman sound as good as ever, with new drummer Korum Bischoff essentially introduced to the band's audience in track #2 "Fish Sticks" by showing off his ample chops.  Friends such as Johnny Bregar and Dean Jones pitch in, and after listening to the strings on "Stranded," somewhere Burt Bacharach is thinking maybe he should do a kids' album.

As with most RM albums, this one's pitched at kids ages 4 through 8.  You can listen to the whole 41-minute album here.

So here am I at the end of my review and I still don't know if these words are adequate to convey how great this band is.  I'll just leave you then with Deep Sea Diver  is really good - you should get it.  Highly recommended.

Best Kids Music 2011: Top 25 Albums

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.) SingAlong.jpg1. 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."

Video: "Flapjacks" - Recess Monkey

Remember when Recess Monkey's Drew Holloway walked around in a big paper bag and tights for a video? Well, they found someone as daring as he -- Sirius-XM's Kids Place Live's Mindy Thomas, AKA Absolutely Mindy. (Yes, they meet again!) I'm disappointed that they don't actually talk at all about muffins on "Making Muffins with Mindy," but Mindy's willingness to trash her kitchen is admirable. Recess Monkey - "Flapjacks" [YouTube]

Share: Free Music from Caspar Babypants, Recess Monkey, The Not-Its (and more)

PlaysWellTogether.jpgBig props to Amazon for continuing to offer free kids' music. A couple months ago it was Justin Roberts and Bloodshot Records, among others -- this month it's Burnside Distribution, who's offering a free 7-song sampler of artists whose albums they distribute. Because Burnside's based in Portland, OR, it's no surprise that the sampler's got a big Pacific Northwest tilt -- Caspar Babypants ("I Wanna Be a Snowman"), Recess Monkey ("Flapjacks"), and the Not-Its ("I've Got a Goat") have songs from their latest album on the list. The album also includes The Verve Pipe's deservedly beloved and over-the-top "Cereal" and Kimya Dawson's dorky and lo-fi "Bobby-O" from Alphabutt. For those of you on the lookout for new music, the album does have a couple less-familiar tracks. One is "Tootsie" from Edukator Jr., a song with an Americana feel (which is a much different sound from the rest of the tracks on their Myspace page). No surprise, Greasy Kid Stuff was all over the album when it was first released a couple years ago. The other is "Things That Can't Be Pets" from a band called Snack Trap. The track sounds like The Postal Service (if the duo had invited a female singer along).

Video: "Flying" - Recess Monkey

The difference between Recess Monkey and you? (OK, me.) You (or, er, I) go to the airport for a trip and hope to catch up on my backlog of New Yorkers and the Seattle trio go to the airport for a trip and film a freakin' video. This one, for the title track from FLYING!, was filmed at SEA-TAC and features the occasional odd glance from onlookers, innovative camera techniques, and a in-flight instruction card I don't recall seeing the one time I flew JetBlue. Recess Monkey - "Flying" [YouTube]

Video: "Grandmom's House" - Recess Monkey

The boys in Recess Monkey have gone where no kids music group has gone before in their latest video. The bowling alley. That's right, for the funky "Grandmom's House" off FLYING!, the trio -- or at least a remarkably similar looking bunch of ladies possibly using a senior discount -- show us a bunch of talented moves... on the lanes. Seriously, I haven't seen so many strikes in a bowling alley since watching bowling on ABC, like, 25 years ago. Recess Monkey - "Grandmom's House" [YouTube]