Monday Morning Smile: "I Believe in Little Things" - Diana Panton

I Believe in Little Things cover

I Believe in Little Things cover

What was it I said last week?  "More joy."  Well, Joe Raposo makes just about everything more joyful.

Canadian jazz musician Diana Panton turned to Raposo for the title track to her kid-friendly album I Believe in Little Things.  The album was originally released in September 2015, but is going to get a bigger push here south of the Canadian border in 2016, and with tracks like the title track, I think it'll be well-received in the kindie world.

The video for "I Believe in Little Things" is charming and whimsical, and Panton's warm and clear voice elegantly lays out Raposo's masterful lyrics, with Jacqui Lee's illustration a perfect fit.  Definitely an album to look forward to (or hear now, if you don't want to wait).

Diana Panton - "I Believe in Little Things" [YouTube]

Video: "Sheep Don't Wear Shoes" - Marsha Goodman-Wood (World Premiere!)

Though I've been listening to kids music for about 15 years now, I can still be surprised by what tickles my fancy.  What was it then about this video for "Sheep Don't Wear Shoes," a simple little ditty from Marsha Goodman-Wood, off her album Gravity Vacation?  The gentle (though not over-the-top) message of independence?  The big-eyed sheep illustrated by Danielle Dekoker and assembled into video form by fellow kids musician Patricia Shih?  The fact that it stars sheep (I do like my animated sheep)?

I'm still not entirely sure, but I liked it enough to be happy to world-premiere the video this morning.

(Plus, my last name is "Shepherd.")

Marsha Goodman-Wood - "Sheep Don't Wear Shoes" [YouTube]

Who Gives a Hoot (2)? Bill Childs and Stephanie Mayers

Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics logo

Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics logo

Many years ago, way back in the wild and woolly kindie year of 2007, Bill Childs and Stephanie Mayers put together a little party in Brooklyn. They called it Hootenanny and, well, from a distance, it sounded like a blast.  Nothing but kids musicians playing their music for other kids musicians and other folks in the industry.  The party went on into the wee hours (like, the actual wee hours, not the wee hours that these musicians typically play).

The next year, Hootenanny became more officially known as Stink, then it became Stinkfest, then Kindiefest, and yadda yadda yadda.  Great times indeed, but the "conference" part with panels and badges and registration became a bigger part of the work, and while the "playing music for others part" never went away, the focus was not as much on that industry-only performance.

But Mayers (head of Mayers Consulting) and Childs (Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child) are getting the band back together, concert-speaking-wise, anyway, hosting Hootenanny 2: Back to Basics on Saturday, January 16.  It's going to be held at Jalopy in Brooklyn (the same place the first three gatherings were held) -- tickets available here -- and with the following lineup I can't imagine it'll be anything but a blast:

Rachel Loshak and Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold)
Vered Ronen and Walter Martin
Michael & the Rockness Monsters and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Jazzy Ash and KB Whirly
Ashley Albert and Tim Kubart
Joanie Leeds and Dan Elliott (Pointed Man Band)
Danny Weinkauf (TMBG) and AudraRox
Sonia de los Santos and Brady Rymer
Shine & Dan Zanes
The Deedle Deedle Dees and Moona Luna
Elena Moon Park & The Pop Ups

So, yeah, folks who are industry-related who are going to be around NYC the weekend of the 16th, you should totally go to that -- it'll be a blast to see those people perform, and just talk to them.  (As in the old days, these are not shows for kids themselves...)

But I wanted to get a little more background from Mayers and Childs on their memories of the first go-round, and their inspiration and hopes for the new show.

Zooglobble: Do you have a favorite moment from the old Hootenanny/Stinkfest?

Stephanie Mayers: I think it was giggling and singing along to the Deedle Deedle Dees with Audra[Rox] while sipping champagne at like 1:00 am, more buzzed on the energy of what we had just done more than the champagne. What an energetic, surprising night it turned out to be.

Bill Childs: The utter ridiculousness of the first one -- which grew from Audra saying, "Hey, you should record the show when you're here in Brooklyn" to nearly two dozen bands playing 'til way past midnight -- was just a delight.  There have been a lot of great moments throughout the later events, but yeah, the surprise.

Stephanie Mayers with cardboard Bill Childs

Stephanie Mayers with cardboard Bill Childs

Who holds the Hoot record for most appearances? 

Bill: Gotta be a tie between the Deedle Deedle Dees and AudraRox, I'd think.

How did the idea for the collaborative theme of Hoot 2 come about? 

Stephanie: We were super excited to start bringing in as many people as we could but of course it’s just one night so time is limited. We started with just a couple pairings we thought would be fun and that we really wanted to see ourselves, then it just kind of snowballed into each set being a cool collaboration to maximize potential. 

Bill: Agreed, it was partially a practical idea to fit in more shows, but then it developed into being thematic.  One of the things that I'm proudest of in the scene, and our (small) part in it, has been the very cool collaborations that have come out of it.

How did the specific collaborations come about? Your suggestions, theirs, or some combination thereof? 

Stephanie: Mostly it was us, but of course we were open to suggestions from the artists. It was super fun and really indulgent for us playing matchmaker, getting to set up who we wanted to see blended together. I felt like a little Yenta.

What do you hope the attendees remember about Hoot 2 after it’s over?

Stephanie: I hope everyone is reminded that we are sharing this special, small space in our very niche genre and that while everyone gets bogged down trying working so hard to make things happen for themselves, that banding together once in a while can be a really great thing and gobs of fun.

Bill: The scene is better when the scene is together -- and it's strongest when everyone's having fun.

Monday Morning Smile: "Life's A Treat" (Shaun the Sheep Theme, Rizzle Kicks Remix)

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I think any time you make a resolution, "More joy" should be on the list.

And there are comparatively few pieces of pop culture that bring me as much joy as Shaun the Sheep, the claymation TV show from Aardman Animation.  The nearly dialogue-less cross-cultural humor of the show rivals, I think, the best of classic Warner Brothers cartoons.  The recent full-length Shaun the Sheep Movie was a good introduction to the series, and, next to Inside Out, my favorite animated movie of the year.

The show's theme song is a peppy little number called "Life's A Treat," and for the movie, British hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks gave it a remix for the closing credits.  Could I listen to this five times in a row?  Probably.  More joy, folks, more joy.  (And if you like that, might I suggest "Feels Like Summer"?)

Rizzle Kicks - "Life's A Treat (Remix)" (Shaun the Sheep) [YouTube]

Best Kids Music of 2015: A Summary

I can now relax heading into the Christmas holidays because I wrapped up my reviews of the best -- or at least my favorites -- of the year in kids music.  Here, before I forget, are my three lists:

Before I sign off for the year -- and this site is going to be pretty quiet until the new year -- a couple brief thoughts to ponder in 2016.

I think there was a lot of great music this year -- really, just go back and check out those lists of top albums and songs -- but I felt like the number of new musicians I was introduced to this year was diminished a bit from previous years.  I noted last year that the number of artists represented in my lists was maybe 20% of all the artists I was exposed to.  So I recognize that this dimming of new music tickling my eardrums could be my own narrowing of tastes.  But I'm also a little worried that I couldn't find ten debuts I wanted to highlight this year -- it wasn't even like I had 8 or 9 and could've tweaked my guidelines to get to 10 -- at best there was maybe one more that was anywhere near being in the running.  So, again, I don't know if that's me or the genre generally, but that's not something I recall thinking in previous years.

The other "big thought" I have from the year is that I think the economics of the genre is at a tipping point... but I'm not sure which way it's going to tip.  Artists keep reporting that album sales (both digital and physical) continue to decline.  Not for all artists, and to vary degrees to be sure, but it seems like the model of having album sales be the primary income stream is nearing an end for the kids music world much sooner than I thought it would.  At the same time, artists are diversifying their artistic efforts (books, puppet shows, videos).  And with the explosion of streaming services trying to provide "walled gardens" for kids-related media, there could be an explosion of opportunities for talented kids musicians to be snapped up for exclusive albums, videos, and more for those services.  (Exhibit A: The Pop Ups.)

If I had to guess, I'd think that this is a great opportunity for focused kids' artists with a wealth of songs, creative ideas, and creative people in their address books... and not so good news for "hobbyist" musicians who can't devote a significant amount of resources (mostly time, but even money) in producing high-quality music, videos, and concert experiences.

Will the explosion in places to have music heard result in an ever-increasing flowering of types of kids music... or its homogenization?  I'm not sure, but I'm thinking 2016 might be a really important year.

Best Kids Music of 2015: Top 5 Debuts

Continuing on with my look back at 2015 (or Oct. 1, 2014 though Sept. 30, 2015, or thereabouts), let's turn our attention to debuts.

As always, I struggle with this list because what is a "debut" in kids music?  Meaning, if someone's been recording music for adults for a decade or more and then releases an album for kids, is that a "debut"?  I've leaned towards "no," especially if there's no indication that they plan to return to the kids music world.  (See: The Amazing Keystone Big Band, Suz Slezak, or Hilary Grist, though I would love to be proven wrong.) Same goes for artists who've recorded kids music but in other pairings.  (Waves hello to Renee Stahl, who recorded as Renee and Friends as a break from Renee & Jeremy.)

Luckily, the list of five albums below are still fine introductions to kids music from artists I've got a pretty good feeling might come back for round 2 -- at the very least they went to the trouble of creating a new band, right?  So here are my top 10 favorite debuts, listed alphabetically.

Turkey Andersen cover

Turkey Andersen cover

Turkey AndersenTurkey Andersen

[Review] - "Its combination of TMBG quirkiness and songwriting with Jonathan Richman-esque earnestness and vocals is pretty much instantly appealing.  If this debut is proof-of-concept, then I think it's proven that Turkey Andersen needs some investors."

Big Block Singsong album cover

Big Block Singsong album cover

Big Block Singsong - Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits Vol. 1

[Review] - "Turns out that the delightful series of 2-minute music videos date back to 2009, when Canadian illustrator Warren Brown and composer Adam Goddard (now Goddard/Brown) first unleashed Big Box Singsong, as it was then known, onto the world... Now there are 59 videos, 49 of which are the Season 1 pile which provide the 24 songs drawn for the album and DVD.  I, for one, welcome our new big block overlords."

S.S. Bungalow album cover

S.S. Bungalow album cover

Big World Audio Theatre - The Peculiar Tales of the S.S. Bungalow 

[Review] - "Voice actor Kevin Barbare narrates the story, which is filled with enough dramatic plot turns, gentle good humor, atmospheric sound effects, and occasional Princess Bride-style meta-commentary to keep the target audience hooked and any adults tuned in amused.  The chamber pop-folk, featuring the occasional stringed instrument, horns, and pedal steel, runs the gamut from peppy to slow as befitting the story's twists and turns."

Mi Viaje album cover

Mi Viaje album cover

Sonia De Los Santos - Mi Viaje: De Nuevo Leon to the New York Island 

[Review] - "Mi Viaje is an engaging album, and De Los Santos has succeeded in her goal of having listeners understand her journey from Mexico to New York City.  A Spanish-language kids music album might seem like a niche record, but as De Los Santos and others in this third wave of Spanish-language kids music of the past couple years have shown, it can speak to a fairly broad audience."

Let's Boogie album cover

Let's Boogie album cover

Rock 'n' RainbowLet's Boogie

[Review] - "Let's Boogie is energetic and a different spin on a lot of early childhood music education music. For families looking for a slightly glitter-infused take on music for their kindergarteners, this could fill that niche well."  [Note: Mike Whitla's done some other kids music stuff, but this is of such a different character that I'm letting it in as a debut.]