If it's true that behind (or under) many a kids' musician is a child who encouraged (passively or actively) that musician to start making music for families, what happens when those kids grow up?
It's a question we haven't really answered in the 21st century. The Baltimore-area band Milkshake may be one of the first artists of Kindie New Wave to deal. As the kids of Milkshake's duo Lisa Mathews and Mikel Gehl reach tweenage and even teenage status, the band has suggested that their fifth album, Got a Minute?, will be their last.
Eleven years after the release of their debut Happy Songs, the band's changed quite a bit. Mathews and Gehl are still at the helm, of course, but the band's six people strong at this point and on the new album they bring in a bunch of guest artists, including fellow Marylanders Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. That first album had preschool-friendly songs like "Fingers & Toes," but now Milkshake's recording songs like "Girls Wanna Dance" (about middle school dances) and "Workin' Kid Blues" (about doing errands and earning money at age 12).
In some ways, the band hasn't changed -- it's still on the eager side of the kindie spectrum, even if, just as kids do as they mature, some of the song subjects look to the world outside the narrator (see "Baltimore" and "More Than Me"). They've expanded their stylistic range over time (see on this album, for example, the hip-hop of "More Than Me" or the country of "Lookin Out the Window," the thoroughly sea chanty "We Just Wanna Have Fun," or even the instrumental "Seabreeze"), but for the most part they stick to making pop songs for growing kids.
If there is a weak link with the album it's that the inspiration for the "Got a Minute?" theme, their work for PBS Kids that comprises the final third or so of the album, sits uneasily with the rest of the album. There's nothing horribly wrong with the songs, it's just that the 18-minute block of more simplistic 1-minute songs targeted at 4-year-olds feels tacked on at the end of a more ambitious (in many ways) 36-minute album that precedes it.
The first two-thirds of the album are most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 11; the last third for kids ages 5 and below. You can hear several tracks at the band's music page.
After I listened to Got a Minute? once, on future spins I tended to skip past the opening track, a kinda-barely funny skit where Lisa and Mikel try to get their band into the studio to record a song only to find out that each bandmate is busy. Upon reflection, though, I think I figured out what Mathews and Gehl were doing with that track -- it was their take on how our kids, who once followed us everywhere, eventually move on to their own things -- and we parents need to move on too, in some way. If Milkshake is indeed moving on to other things, they've left their kindie fans with one last album that will no doubt please them. Recommended.
[Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the album for possible review.]