Monday Morning Smile: "Ma'agalim" - Jane Bordeaux

Got an e-mail the other day from Lori Henriques the other day which just included a subject line -- "Thought of you :)" -- and a Vimeo link.

Turns out Henriques has me pegged pretty well.  The link was to this video for "Ma'agalim" by Jane Bordeaux.  The Jane Bordeaux Band plays "Americana Hebrew Folk Country music," so be advised that unless you're a Hebrew speaker, you're not going to understand the lyrics.  But the lovely video from director Uri Lotan will likely cause you and your kids to stare slightly slackjawed at the gorgeous animation of a penny arcade machine that tells a years-long story.  Full of wonder.

The Jane Bordeaux Band - "Ma'agalim" [Vimeo]

Video: "Black Footed Ferret" - The Whizpops

Last fall, I clued you in to a sweet animated video for "Manta Ray" by Montana kindie band The Whizpops.  The video was premiered on the SciShow Kids channel, and nearly six months later, the band's getting a second video premiere from fellow Montanan Hank Green and his merry band of YouTube educators.

The video is for "Black Footed Ferret," and I think it's an even better match of song and video than the first pairing.  In addition to the song, which veers from Billy Joel/Steely Dan jazzy piano pop to rap and back again, the video neatly complements the story the song tells about black footed ferrets' tenacious and tenuous grip on survival as a species.

Also, in addition to the animation, there are also puppets.  I am ALWAYS thinking of the puppets.

In any case, the song is from The Whizpops' forthcoming album, Ranger Rick's Trail Mix Vol. 1, due out May 20, and the band is clearly continuing down the nature-tainment path they've forged on their recent albums.  Hopefully there are a couple more videos as cute as this one on the drawing board.

The Whizpops - "Black Footed Ferret" [YouTube]

Podcast Review: "Shabam!"

Shabam logo

Shabam logo

There are lots of really good science-based podcasts for kids, and I'll get to them in the not-too-distant future as I start to review podcasts for kids, but I'll start off with Shabam! because who knows how long before the zombie outbreak takes over?

I should probably explain that Shabam!, produced by a collective known as Foolyboo, differs from a lot of science-themed podcasts in that it folds its non-fiction topics -- pathogens, epidemics, cognitive biases -- in a fictional wrapper, that of a zombie outbreak.  I think the mix serves the podcast well -- the fiction does provide sufficient context for the non-fiction components, while the non-fiction parts ground the fiction (which I'll remind you is about a zombie outbreak, so take the phrase "ground the fiction" with a grain of salt).  It's possible to tell interesting stories about, say, epidemiology, in a non-fiction setting, of course -- yay, John Snow! -- but this fictional story works well for that subject, too.

I'm going to peg the age-appropriateness of the show at best for kids 8-13.  That's based on the science and zombie-ishness thus far, which isn't for younger kids, but definitely lacks Walking Dead-like grossness.   The iTunes link for the show is here.  Episodes are roughly 25-30 minutes in length, and it's as yet unclear how frequently they'll be released -- I'm guessing monthly from here on out.  Aside from a brief statement near the beginning and the end of the show that it's partially sponsored by Google, there are no ads during the show.  (Also of note: they do a really good job of editing the closing credits, telling the story in between all the various credits, giving the listener a reason to not hit the fast-forward button.)

The other reason I wanted to lead off my podcast reviews with Shabam! is that in its narrative structure, it's going to be best if you listen from the beginning.  Since they're only 3 episodes in, now is a good time to jump in and listen with your kids.  You know, before the zombie outbreak hits your town.

Podcast Reviews Are Now A Thing Here

I've spent more than a dozen years reviewing kids music on and offline, but starting today I'm going to expand slightly into reviewing podcasts for kids.  (Think of it as kids audio worth sharing!)

Why start reviewing podcasts for kids now?  As I noted in a piece on the kids podcasting world a couple weeks ago, the scene feels fragmented, in part because discovery is reeeeeally difficult at the moment.  I'm hopeful that adding my voice to those (very) few who are attempting to chronicle the field qualitatively will help in some small way in creating some sort of coherent core from which creative podcasts for kids can leap out of.  Also, I think there is some small boom of podcasts focusing of kids about to happen (waves hi at Todd McHatton, for one).

As for my general podcasting tastes, I think they're broadly reflective of the NPR/Gimlet nonfiction world, with a broad appreciation for reported and assembled shows like This American Life, Radiolab, and Serial, with some discussion/interview shows like Dear Hank and John, Bullseye, Another Round, and Back to Work mixed in.  That's definitely not a complete list -- I probably listen to a couple dozen podcasts at least semiregularly -- but it gives you a good idea where I'm coming from.  (In other words, not from the comedy podcast world.)

So, don't worry, musicians, I'll still be reviewing music, and at a greater frequency than podcasts, to be sure.  But I also think the shifting landscape of the recorded music business and the non-music recorded audio business is changing, and more of you are going to be recording these things soon enough.

Video: "Catch That Pretzel" - Lard Dog & The Band of Shy

Life's a Real Dream cover

Life's a Real Dream cover

If a picture can be worth a thousand words, sometimes a music video can capture a band's sensibility far better than a review ever could.

It's with that in mind that I'm featuring a video from Lard Dog and The Band of Shy called "Catch That Pretzel."  The video's the first off their debut album Life's A Real Dream, and in its whimsy I think it pretty much nails the band and its album.

Choreographed drone footage, modern sculpture (from Steven Erdman AKA Lard Dog himself), and an American Gothic reference.  Oh, and pretzels of all sizes, including life-sized.  It's like Arnie the Doughnut as filmed at MassMOCA.  (Which makes it sound pretentious, which applies only to my description, not the video itself, which is properly silly.)

Lard Dog & The Band of Shy - "Catch That Pretzel" [YouTube]

Video: "Jackalope" - The Okee Dokee Brothers (World Premiere!)

Is this the mysterious jackalope?

Is this the mysterious jackalope?

After a trip down the (spiritual) heart of the country, the Mississippi River, on their Grammy-winning album Can You Canoe?, and along the Appalachian Trail spine of the East Coast for Through the Woods, it's time for The Okee Dokee Brothers to finish their Adventure Album trilogy.  On Saddle Up, the duo head west for adventures along and around the Continental Divide.

Saddle Up album cover

Saddle Up album cover

As with their previous two albums, this new one celebrates the outdoors in songs both heartfelt and (occasionally) silly.  In more the latter category (but also a little bit the former) falls "Jackalope," a tall tale about a mysterious and rarely seen animal.

For the song's video, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing recruited a couple westerners to help -- Red Yarn helps out with a familiar puppet, while Laki Karavias, known to kindie fans as one of main ringleaders of the Big World Audio Theatre, handles the cinematography.  I asked Joe and Justin what motivated them to work with the pair of Portland-based musicians, and this is what they said:

We love both of their work as family musicians as well as their work in puppetry and filming. On top of that, they're really nice people with a similar aesthetic to our brand. Justin and I aren't great with puppets, so we reached out to our favorite folk singer/kids musician/puppeteer about using one of his Deep Woods critters for this video. We had thought Andy would need to make a whole new jackalope for us, but he had the great idea of giving Bob Rabbit a makeover. He sent us some photos before they did the filming and we approved of Bob's new look. Both Laki and Andy did a great job of matching Bob's "acting" (which took place in the woods of Portland) with our jackalope hunt story (filmed in AZ during our western trip). When we got the footage back, we were all so surprised at how well everything matched up - from the lighting and setting all the way down to little plot points. It was a real pleasure working with those two.

As for the titular character, when I asked if they'd ever gone jackalope hunting when they were kids, they said:

Yes! Growing up in Colorado we would always see taxidermied jackalopes hung on walls in people's basements or in gift shops. We had some tricky uncles who convinced us that, if we waited long enough, we could catch a jackalope (along with some other strange creatures... snipes come to mind). They would teach us how to hold our gunny sacks and what calls to make in order to lure the jackalopes into our bags. I remember staying out in the woods for hours one night with Justin, whistling and chirping at the moon to no avail.  But guess what, tricky uncles: We did catch something... it might have taken 20 years of wandering around making weird noises, but we caught a song out of the deal!

Joe and Justin seem particularly flummoxed in their search for this particular jackalope, but their fans should enjoy this world premiere video from The Okee Dokee Brothers just fine.

The Okee Dokee Brothers - "Jackalope" [YouTube]