Top Kids and Family Podcasts (May 2017)

I've missed a month since the last time I looked at ranking podcasts for kids. (For those of you interested, here is March's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.)  If you're looking for a podcast for kids, you could of course look at my list of podcasts for kids (inching ever closer to reaching triple-digits), but if that's a bit overwhelming, try the podcasts listed below.   Popularity isn't always synonymous with quality, but you could do much worse than dipping into the shows ranked below to start out.

The biggest news since the last time out is the release of NPR's first-ever podcast for kids, Wow in the World.  You can learn much more about the show in my interview with the show's creators, Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz, but unsurprisingly, even after just one full episode released this week, it's camping out at the top of the charts.

Even setting aside Wow in the World's arrival, this would still be a big deal sort of list, because there are 16 shows on the ranked list below, meaning 16 shows that appeared in the top 100 of both the iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts.  That is a record by a wide margin.  The total number of podcasts listed below is 32, which ties the record high.  And there are 3 podcasts below which hit the overall iTunes Top 200, while in the Top 200 Kids & Family chart on iTunes, the total there (33) tied the record.  So there is clearly some increasing awareness of family-friendly podcasts.

As always: this is a blunt instrument, combining pure rankings from two fairly opaque charts, and for a variety of reasons has only marginal value as a measure of quality.  (Results compiled from Top 100 podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.  Podcasts that appear on both charts are listed with numbers; remaining podcasts only appeared on one list.)  So: grain of salt noted.

Two other reminders:

1.  If you're looking for a list that has most (or all) of these podcasts, check out my comprehensive list of podcasts for kids.

2. If you're interested in the future of podcasts for kids, you might be interested in Kids Listen, a grassroots organization of podcasters and folks like me interested in helping high-quality audio for children thrive.  We're looking for other interested folks -- producers or otherwise -- to join in!

With that out of the way, let's get to the chart.

1. (tie) Brains On!

1. (tie) Stories Podcast

1. (tie) Wow in the World

4. Storynory

5.  The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

6. Tumble

7. Story Pirates

8. The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

9. Dream Big

10. Story Time

11. The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

12. But Why

13. The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified

14. Peace Out

15. Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child

16. Short and Curly

Others (listed alphabetically): 1001 Classic Short Stories and Tales, Activated Stories, Barefoot Books, Book Club for Kids, Children Stories and Joyful, Disney Story Central, Ear Snacks, Family Folk Tales, Little Stories for Tiny People, Molly and the Sugar Monster, Official Adventures in Odyssey, Podcast Kid, Saturday Morning Theatre, Sparkle Stories, The Story Home, That Story Show

Video: "Txoria Txori" - Sonia De Los Santos

This song from Sonia De Los Santos, "Txoria Txori," is a wistful ballad about setting free a caged bird off her fine 2015 album Mi Viaje: De Nuevo León To The New York Island (one of my ten great Spanish-language kids music albums).  All else being equal, I'm probably less inclined to feature a video for a ballad than a rip-roarin' pop tune, even for a ballad I like, but exceptions can always be made, and so for this video I will.

Even though the album from which the lullaby is taken is primarily in Spanish (and English), "Txoria Txori" is actually sung in the Basque language of Euskera.  For the video, De Los Santos traveled to Spain and was filmed walking around Bilbao and other parts of Basque Country.  There are some truly lovely surroundings De Los Santos and her bandmates find herself in -- the whole thing could easily be part of a travel campaign.  Worth it for the voice and the glimpse into another part of the world.

Sonia De Los Santos - "Txoria Txori" [YouTube]

Song for Mother's Day: "Mother's Day 1976 (The Worst Smell in the World)" - Baron Von Rumblebuss

Mother's Day cover

Mother's Day cover

It's been awhile since I've put together a list of songs for moms -- the list was long 7 years ago, and I have no doubt that there are dozens if not more I could add.  In lieu of quantity, this year I'm going for quality.  The song is "Mother's Day 1976 (The Worst Smell in the World)," and it's a last-minute entry from North Carolina poptimists Baron Von Rumblebuss.  The Baron himself, Tray Batson, notes that he "aimed for a 70’s pop vibe in the vein of ELO, with a dash of Pure Prairie League, maybe," wrapped around a sweet story about boy making a last-minute Mother's Day gift.  There's a bit of bathroom humor, but I think the song absolutely nails the tone.  Give it a spin below.

Baron Von Rumblebuss - "Mother Day 1976 (The Worst Smell in the World)" [Reverbnation]

Recent Spanish-Language Kids Music Albums (and One Portuguese Album)

While the flood of kids music designed to teach kids a foreign language has thankfully slowed down somewhat (the results were usually very dry, musically-speaking), what's left over is generally of higher quality.  I wanted to highlight ever so briefly some recent Spanish-language (or mostly Spanish-language) albums for kids.  I've even thrown in a Portuguese-language album for good measure.  Whether any of these would sneak into my 2015 list of ten great Spanish-language kids music albums, I'd need to spend a little more time thinking about, but all of these five albums are worth listening to in one way or another.

Arriba Abajo cover

Arriba Abajo cover

The highest-profile of the five albums here is probably 123 Andres' Arriba Abajo, which picked up the 2016 Latin Grammy.  Based in Washington DC, Colombian-born Andrés Salguero has carved a niche by playing Spanish-language music that features more sounds of Central and South America than just Mexico.  This album features 10 songs sung entirely in Spanish, then the same 10 songs with English lyrics.  The lyrics are targeted at a preschool age (see "Cosquillas," or "Tickles"), so they are simple and direct, while the music is definitely more sophisticated.  (I particularly enjoyed "El danzon y al cha cha cha" and "Vuela, vuela" for the music.)  You can stream the album here and elsewhere.  I'm not sure kids would learn Spanish just by listening, but there have been far, far worse attempts at these sorts of album -- this is far more tuneful.

¡Alegria! album cover

¡Alegria! album cover

Los Angeles-based Sandra Sandia took a long time between albums.  The late 2015 album ¡Alegria! arrived about 7 years after its predecessor.  The inspiration for the project was some drum loops produced by a musician called DJ Salada, all with a Brazilian flavor.  The vast majority of the lyrics are in Spanish, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) translations are nowhere to be found.  But as a pure listening experience, that may help.  And with songs about cats, snakes, whales, and, erm, flying saucers ("Platillo Volador"), the album is clearly targeted at kids.  With a more modern South American sound, this album might serve as a useful counterpoint to the more traditional sound of 123 Andres.

PANORAMA album cover

PANORAMA album cover

The most adventurous album (subject-wise, but also musically) of the bunch may be Moona Luna's early 2016 album PANORAMA.  It loosely tells the story of a family bus trip through South America, which means it has the time for songs about traveling (the title track), walking around cities at dusk ("Atardecer (Sunset)"), or just being with family ("Llevame (Take Me with You)").  Moona Luna's mastermind Sandra Velasquez has crafted some memorable melodies and, like all of these albums, a nicely-layered production.  And while Moona Luna's first songs were much more rigid in featuring Spanish-language verses and then direct-translation English-language verses (or vice versa), these latest songs are more flexible.  It means that you could take just about any song out of the context of the album, and still want to listen to it amidst a bunch of English-language kids music with more of a pop-rock flair.  (Stream it here and elsewhere.)  It's my favorite album of the bunch, but if it's yours depends on what you and your family are trying to get out of listening to Spanish-language albums.

Cuando Era Pequeña cover

Cuando Era Pequeña cover

For a shinier, poppier (albeit still Latin-influenced) take on the bilingual album look to Los Angeles’ Nathalia Palis (aka Nathalia).  On her 2016 album Cuando Era Pequeña (When I Was Your Age), the Colombian-born Palis switches from English to Spanish nimbly, sometimes within the same chorus, but also leaves room for songs sung entirely in one or the other language.  There is no (overt) language acquisition goal here, just themes that’ll sound familiar to anyone who’s spent time in the kids music world -- dancing like dinosaurs (“Dinosaur Dance,” natch), birthdays (the all-English “It’s My Birthday”), and perseverance (the pop-rocker “Otra Vez”).  There’s a big distance between this album and, say, the Paulinho Garcia album below, one that’s bigger than the language difference, but it’s also healthy that non-English language music for kids and families can cover such a wide range of styles and subjects.

Aquarela album cover

Aquarela album cover

Finally, unlike the other albums here, Aquarela from Brazilian-born, Chicago-based Paulinho Garcia is sung in Brazilian Portuguese.  (It's a release from the Global Language Project, which encourages the study and learning by kids of languages other than English.)  The melodies are sung by Garcia, accompanied by a small number of musicians who lay down the barest of musical accompaniments.  For any of you who have heard, say, Getz/Gilberto (and many probably have, even if you don’t know it), the samba sounds here (and the accompanying female vocals of Silvia Manrique) will have a soothing, familiar feel.  The title track is delightful, as is “Meu Limao, Meu Limoeiro,” but those are only a couple of the highlights.  If you want to learn Portuguese, the physical album includes lyrics in both the Portuguese and the English translation, but the relaxed take on these traditional Brazilian kids’ songs make for a pleasant spin regardless of whether you've got a second language in mind.