My Favorite Kids and Family Albums of 2007

It's time once again for me to list my favorite kids and family albums from the past year or so. As I noted in last year's list, I don't put tremendous stock in individual "best of" lists, because taste is idiosyncratic. (Please note the title here is "favorite," not "best," a deliberate choice of words.) The idiosyncracies of taste are one reason why I came up with the idea for the Fids and Kamily Awards. The fact that I think Recess Monkey's Wonderstuff is one of the year's best CDs might be more easily dismissed if it weren't for the fact that a good number of 19 judges happened to agree with me. As for my list, the top 10 below reflects my Fids and Kamily ballot. But as with last year, limiting a list of favorites to just 10 albums would leave off a number of very, very good albums. In fact, as a whole, 2007 was even stronger than 2006, making this year's decisions even more difficult. Although I lost count some time ago, I'd guess that I probably heard 250 to 300 new albums this past year -- even at 20 albums, I've left off some great music from this list. So without further ado...

New Album Next Year From Steve Lee. Also, DIY Video.

It's taken me a little long to get around to this, but Nashville's Steve Lee announced 2-3 weeks ago that he's completing work on a new album. In Lee's own words: "The whole record will not be a "kids" cd. But I will be taking the kid songs from the record and making a remix ep for the kidz babyyyyyy." Aside from the extra "y"s in that sentence, I'm down with that... Really, go to his Myspace page and give his tunes from 2007's What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee? (particularly "Grab A Balloon") a spin. (Or listen to the whole thing here.) And, if you want to watch a do-it-yourself from the funky traffic-rule-discussing "Green Means Go," then Lee's got ya covered, too:

Review: What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee? - Steve Lee

WhatDidYouDoToday.jpgDespite the fact that everybody and their drummer is recording kids music these days, it still takes a certain amount of courage for an artist to release a kids' CD as their very first album. So kudos to Nashville-based Steve Lee, who chose the "release the kids' CD" page in the "Choose Your Own Adventure" book of his life and ended up producing something quite worthwhile. What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee?, released at the tail-end of 2006, weaves together some top-notch songwriting and playing around a story of an eventful day in Steve Lee's childhood. The 61-minute starts with a New Age-y "Good Morning," with Lee's voice gently urging the listener to wake up over some gentle piano. From there, Lee alternates between skits in which he plays a young Stephen Scott Lee and songs which provide some moral commentary on the action. Lee gets bullied around, rides the bus to the zoo, gets knocked out, goes to the doctor, watches a movie, and gets ready for bed. I don't think anybody would listen to the CD for the skits (except for those hooked into the Nashville music scene as some of the skits feature cameos by local artists), but they do provide a context for the songs. Make no mistake, it's the songs that make this CD so worthwhile. The dozen or so music tracks are solid. Some of the tracks ("Wake Up," "Sharing is Caring") sound a little bit like early Wilco. Lee's voice will remind you of one of the singers from Barenaked Ladies and the music does somewhat, too. Many of the tracks give off a very Polyphonic Spree vibe. My favorite track -- definitely on the album, and quite possibly of the year -- is "Grab A Balloon." It takes a minute or so for the track to pick up speed, but when it does, it's accompanied by a heart so big ("Life is your book, it's being written as we speak / But you should know no matter where you go, your heart is your home") that it's impossible to listen without smiling. Many of the songs have a definite lesson-teaching component -- share stuff ("Sharing is Caring"), be responsible ("Responsibility Song"), take a breath when you're mad ("Count 2 10"). Normally I tend to discount songs that take that sort of approach, but in this case, Lee and his fellow musicians (a whole bunch of Nashville-area artists) are having so much fun with the infectious melodies that my reservations were wiped out. (Besides, Lee isn't above having a little fun undercutting the moral tone, telling people in one of the zoo-related tracks to "watch out for the doo-doo.") Kids ages 5 through 9 will be most receptive to the lyrics here. You can listen to the entire album at Lee's Virb page. (You're gonna have to go to his Myspace page to buy the album, though.) With What Did You Do Today, Stephen Scott Lee?, Steve Lee has captured the highs and lows of being a kid, not only from the child's perspective, but also with some adult 20/20 hindsight. All that, and a tasty musical package, too. Definitely recommended.