Top Kids and Family Podcasts (December 2016)

It's time once more to take a look at the nebulously-ranked world of podcasts, this time for December.  (Here is October's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.  No, there was not a November list.)

There was definitely a little movement in the list this time around, with some new entries, although the rankings of these particular podcasts within the "kids and family" charts in the iTunes and Stitcher kids and family charts are generally in the same range as last time.

As with last month, none of the podcasts ranked here ranked within the "all podcasts" chart on iTunes, and even the number of podcasts on one of the two lists dipped to 28, down from the all-time high of 29, though still up from 22 in June.

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 Thursday, December 1, 2016.  Podcasts that appear on both charts are listed with numbers; remaining podcasts only appeared on one list.)  In this particular month, the hybrid nature of the chart probably penalizes what may be the most popular podcast, the brand-new Disney Story Central podcast.  It's only available on iTunes, and can't chart on Stitcher.  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. Stories Podcast

2. Brains On

3. Storynory

4. The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

5. Tumble

6. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

7. Story Time

8. Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified

9. Story Pirates

10. Spare the Rock Spoil the Chld

11.  But Why?

12. The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

13. The Cramazingly Incredifun Sugarcrash Kids Podcast

Others (listed alphabetically): 1001 Classic Short Stories and Tales, Activated Stories, Book Club for Kids, Children Stories and Joyful, Children's Fun Storytime, Disney Story Central, Family Folk Tales, Little Stories for Tiny People, Molly and the Sugar Monster, Official Adventures in Odyssey, Podcast Kid, Shabam!, Short and Curly, Sparkle Stories, The Story Home

Itty-Bitty Review: I Believe in Little Things - Diana Panton

I Believe in Little Things cover

I Believe in Little Things cover

I'm surprised there aren't more albums like Diana Panton's I Believe in Little Things. Given that jazz often takes classic songs and standards as the basis for creating something entirely new, why haven't jazz musicians devoted more attention to classic kids' songs?

On her new album, the Canadian jazz singer Panton doesn't reach all the way back to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but instead uses classic twentieth century songs written for kids' entertainment as her starting point.  So she turns to Sesame Street songwriter Joe Raposo, Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams' songs from The Muppet Movie, and some Disney, among others.  Panton's crystal-clear voice is a delight to listen to, with her backing musicians (primarily Reg Schwager on guitar and Don Thompson on bass, piano, and vibraphone) providing a subtle background from which her voice shines without being brassy, which would serve these songs poorly.  As lovely as the renditions are, the musicians explore the songs to a point that some listeners with short attention spans may drift off ("When You Wish Upon a Star" clocks in at nearly six minutes).  As a result, I'll peg the 55-minute album's target age range as ages 5 and up.

I hesitate to call this "kindie" or "kids music" -- remove the delightful album art by Jacqui Lee and replace it with abstract shapes or stylish pictures of Panton and her band, and it's a tossup as to whether it'd be filed in "children's music" or "jazz."  Having said that, the answer to that question is probably a tossup under the current album art as well and probably irrelevant -- it's an album kids and adults are both likely to enjoy settling down with.  Recommended.

Note: I received a copy of the album for possible review.

Review: Big Block Singsong Volume One and Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits

Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits

Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits

After I listened to and watched Big Block Singsong’s album (Big Block Singsong Greatest Hits) and DVD (Big Block Singsong Volume One) a couple times, my first question was “Why have I not heard of these before?”  I initially assumed that the fact it was a (relatively new) Disney Junior show meant that I was just out of the TV loop.

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.  (No such thing as an overnight sensation, right?)  So I have nobody to blame but myself for not knowing about the videos until their move to CBC, Disney Junior, and Nick Jr. in the UK and inevitable worldwide conquest.  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.

What’s the concept?  Each video episode is about 2 minutes long and features an animated rectangular block with big eyes and mouth singing about a topic, usually themselves.  “Monkey”?  A gray-brown block with long arms singing about all the things he’s going to do meaning that it’s going to be a “two-banana day.”  It’s almost a celebration.  “Octopus”?  A red-brown block with eight tiny dangling legs.  The songs run the genre gamut, from folk (“Monkey”) to AutoTuned funk (“Sleep”) to Smile-era Beach Boys (“Nose”) to Queen (“Junk Food”).  The lyrics have a light touch and a sense of humor, with very little didactic “do this” guidance.

Big Block Singsong Volume One DVD

Big Block Singsong Volume One DVD

The videos are inherently humorous (it’s a square monkey, after all), but the lyrics sometimes offer opportunities for visual jokes.  You don’t need the visuals to enjoy the music, but there are definitely some videos (“Sleep,” for one) that add an extra layer of enjoyment.  While there's a unified animation style, of course, the different video and song concepts mean that if your kid is bored with one song, hang on, there'll be an entirely different one on shortly.

The music and videos are most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 6, but both music and videos (especially the videos) will probably tickle the funnybone of kids (and adults) considerably older than that.  The album and DVD are each roughly 45 minutes in length (with the DVD available with a French-language option of course).  You can get a complete list of places to watch the videos here, which includes the kid-friendly Disney Junior page.

The most difficult question may be, “if I get only one, which do I get?”  Sixteen of the songs including “Nose,” Sleep” and “Mad” are on both the album and DVD.  The advantage of the DVD is that you get the visuals in a format that doesn’t require an internet connection.  The advantage of the album is that you get the incredibly-awesome “Princess,” a track which doesn’t appear on the DVD, and, potentially, portability via CD or mp3 player.  If you don’t need multiple languages on the video, the cheapest and perhaps the easiest combination might be to get the standard-definition version of the 24 videos on the DVD via iTunes for just $6.99 and download “Princess” as an individual mp3 track.

So, yeah, I’m late to the party, but better late than never.  Big Block Singsong is ten tons of fun.  After listening and watching, your kids’ll probably have a two-banana day, too.  Both the album and the DVD are highly recommended.

Note: I received an electronic copy of the album and physical copy of the DVD for possible review.

Weekly Summary (5/5/14 - 5/11/14)

It's time for the WEEKLY... Weekly... weekly... SUMMARY... Summary... summary... (and, no, that echo isn't the sound of no posts -- I did have more than a handful.  Not much more than a handful, but still...)

BlogMonday Morning Smile: "Hockey Monkey" - The Zambonis, Review: Tales from the Monstrosity Scrolls - Rainbow Beast and the Rock Band Land Rockers, Video: "A Walk Around the Block" - Bill Harley, Share: Mother's Day 2014 Playlist (free music!),

Videos:  None this week

Listen to Music:  None this week

Free MusicNone this week

Kids Music Reviews:   None this week

iOS Apps:  None this week

Upcoming Releases: Constantly updating...

Podcasts

Kindie Week in Review:   Ep. 60: Do You Want to Build a Multi-Billion Princess and Snowman Franchise?

My Other Other Gig:  None this week

Bake SaleEp. 17: Jeff Krebs and the Next Papa Crow Album

Monday Morning Smile: "Let It Go" - Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and the Roots

As with the last time I posted a clip of Jimmy Fallon and the Roots tackling a pop culture hit, I suspect that many of you reading this have already seen this (or at least had a half-dozen friends recommend it to you via social media).  But it's still great.

This clip from The Tonight Show of Jimmy FallonThe Roots, and Idina Menzel singing the big hit from Disney's Frozen, "Let It Go," aired the night after the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  I actually was never a huge fan of the song in the movie -- for a song about letting it all go, it never seemed to actually… let go.  No problem with that in this version -- I like the arrangement better (though that has nothing to do with the toy instruments) and Menzel gets to show off her voice even more.  Big smile.

Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel, and the Roots - "Let It Go" (from Frozen) [YouTube