Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Videos

Continuing our look at the year's best in kids music, we finish up with videos.  Now, unlike albums and songs, for which I've traditionally tried to adhere to the Fids and Kamily year (which is Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014 this year), my best-of video selections have tended to run on more of a March through Feburary video fiscal year.  I did that to kick off the very first KidVid Tournament, and I've sort of stuck with that ever since.  (So nobody release an awesome video in the next 48 hours, OK?)

Here's my list of my favorite 30 kids music videos of "2014."  Some are big-budget productions, some are small-budget productions, and some are virtually-no-budget productions.  There are puppets, stop-action, hand-animation, computer animation, live action, and sometimes, more than one of those things.

Before I present the 30 videos, I should note that I wanted to limit an artist to no more than one video on the list.  Which meant that artists like The Bazillions, Danny Weinkauf, and Caspar Babypants don't get their full due as artists that have fully committed to the art of the kids music video, each releasing several music videos that could have appeared on this list (if I wasn't limiting them to one video, they might have had a dozen or so between them).

Of particular note, Chris Ballew has done some amazing work, not only contracting out with a variety of animators for his Caspar Babypants videos but also producing videos on his own beautiful in their creativity and simplicity.  For that reason, I'm giving him a Special Award for Awesomest Kids Music Video Guy of 2014.  Now, if you don't mind, I've got to go find an MTV VMA statue on eBay so I modify it and give it to Ballew.

So while I'm doing that, here's the list in alphabetical order by artist.  A YouTube playlist can be found at the very end if you'd like to while away an hour or two...

Dynamite - Alphabet Rockers (YouTube)

No Homework - The Bazillions (YouTube)

Bottle Caps - Laurie Berkner (YouTube)

Tiny Little Car - Johnny Bregar (YouTube)

The Creatures Under My Bed - Caspar Babypants (YouTube)

Grand March from Aida - Dog On Fleas (YouTube)

I'm a Little Fish - Laura Doherty (YouTube)

Hair - fleaBITE (YouTube)

I Can't Feel My Face - Gustafer Yellowgold (YouTube)

How Great Can This Day Be - Lori Henriques (YouTube)

November First (Jump, Run, Shake) - Eric Herman (YouTube)

Just Not Me - The Hipwaders (YouTube)

Did You Ever See a Lassie? - Charlie Hope (YouTube)

Snow Day - Josh and the Jamtones (YouTube)

Crew Cut - Randy Kaplan (YouTube)

Gingerbread Man - Lunch Money  (YouTube)

I Love You More - Todd McHatton (YouTube)

Girls Wanna Dance - Milkshake (YouTube)

Call Me Mista Cookie Jar - Mista Cookie Jar (YouTube)

Haircut - The Not-Its (YouTube)

Walking With Spring - The Okee Dokee Brothers (YouTube)

All These Shapes - The Pop Ups (YouTube)

Love Bug - Raffi (YouTube)

Brick By Brick - Recess Monkey (YouTube)

Rattlesnake - Red Yarn (YouTube)

Los Colores - Andres Salguero (YouTube)

Pillow Fort Pillow Fight - Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (YouTube)

Ice Cream (Healthy Eating) - Danny Weinkauf (YouTube)

Sea Turtle - The Whizpops (YouTube)

Armando Armadillo - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke (YouTube)

Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 30 Albums

If I were more disciplined about my writing, I'd have written this three months ago when people were thinking about holiday gift lists rather than, well, now.  The advantage is that, rather than giving you a "hot take" about music that I might regret later, I can let a few weeks or months go by and make sure I'm not forgetting (or including) something time has given me more perspective on.

Given that it is approaching the end of February, I think I'll skip the think pieces, the "what does it all mean" text and jump right into the list.  As always, my year-end best-of list matches the Fids and Kamily year -- that is to say, from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.  So some good albums from the last 3 months [waves at Lori Henriques] will just have to wait for next year's list.

One final comment: I originally titled this the "Top 25 Albums" but when I went over my reviews, I realized that limiting it to 25 was going to a difficult proposition.  So I've bumped it up to 30.  That's a good problem to have.

Edit: A couple days later, I was going through my spreadsheet and realized that I totally forgot to add Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke's Animal Tales.  Can't leave that album off the list.  So now it's a Top 31 Album list.

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#1 The Pop Ups - Appetite for Construction

Review - "The Pop-Ups know that you don't need your parent's smart phone to have the world at your fingertips."

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#2 Charlie HopeSing As We Go!

Review - "It's traditional but not musty, sweet but not cloying, engaging but not pandering.  It's a gem of an album, definitely worthy of a comparison to Raffi."

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#3 Red YarnThe Deep Woods

Review - '"Mr. Rabbit" has an almost desperate urgency while "The Fox," which brings together "The Fox," "Midnight Special," and "Go Tell Aunty Rhody," is absolutely gorgeous.  This is a folk revival, in all the many meanings of the word "revival."'

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#4 Walter MartinWe're All Young Together

Review - "Whatever cool-points Martin may have lost by wadding into the kid's music world, the playful and sweet nature of this new album shows he doesn't care one bit. He feels very much at home."

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#5 (tie) The Okee Dokee BrothersThrough the Woods

Review - 'The title track, featuring a lovely descending bass line, is the spiritual successor to the last album's title track, but most of the songs are more content to celebrate tiny moments -- dancing with neighbors in "Jamboree," the gentle love song "Evergreen," the ode to keeping things loose "Out of Tune."'

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#5 (tie) Recess MonkeyDesert Island Disc

Review - "If the songs hold together in any particular way, it's more in their sound.  In the orchestrations (from Jherek Bischoff, brother of drummer Korum Bischoff), toned-down retro-rock, and love songs, this is easily their most Beatles-esque album since their little-heard debut Welcome to Monkey Town."

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#7 (tie) The Short FilmsKingdom Animalia

Review - "The entire album has a dream-like effect -- "Pegafox" is about a make-believe animal, for example, the body of a red fox with the wings of a red-tailed hawk.  "The Mysterious Okapi" is the kids song we never knew Portishead had written about an animal almost none of us know."

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#7 (tie) Elizabeth Mitchell - The Sounding Joy

Review - "The communal experience of singing in celebration is honored here, somewhat hushed, always joyful."

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#9 (tie) Danny WeinkaufNo School Today

Review - "You don't have to be a They Might Be Giants fan to appreciate this album (though TMBG fans are most likely to go nuts for this), just a fan of nicely-crafted, occasionally goofy, kid-pop."

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#9 (tie) Sólrún SumarliðadóttirSkýjaflétta

Review - "This is a thoroughly charming album and while I'm sure I will never get a chance to see the dance pieces these were composed for, I'm glad the album has a chance to cross the ocean for families with adventurous listening habits."

After the top ten, which I can give you because it matches my Fids and Kamily ballot, distinguishing between the rest of my list becomes a little more difficult.  So I'm taking the easy way out - alphabetical order for albums 11 through 31.

Laurie Berkner - Laurie Berkner Lullabies (review)

Bears and Lions - We're a Club in the Woods (review)

Edie Carey & Sarah Sample - 'Til the Morning: Lullabies & Songs of Comfort (review)

Caspar Babypants - Rise and Shine (review)

Danny Lion - First Songs (review)

Lucky Diaz & Family Jam Band - Aqui Alla (review)

Lucky Diaz & Family Jam Band - Lishy Lou and Lucky Too (review)

Laura Doherty - In a Heartbeat (review)

Gustafer Yellowgold - Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom (review)

Thomas Hellman and Emilie Clepper (The Secret Mountain) - I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (review)

The Hipwaders - Year-Round Sounds (review)

Hullabaloo - Shy Kid Blues (review)

Jelly of the Month Club - Introducing… (review)

Randy Kaplan - Jam on Rye (review)

The Not-ItsRaise Your Hand (review)

Papa Crow - Full Moon, Full Moon (review)

Raffi - Love Bug (review)

Recess Monkey - Wired (review)

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - Just Say Hi (review)

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo - The Perfect Quirk (review)

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - Animal Tales (review)

Review: Animal Tales - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

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I think Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke are pretty awesome.  From the very first time Wilde e-mailed me a link to some music that would eventually become their 2010 debut Rise and Shine, I've shouted their praises.

Of course, the New York-area duo have been slow, almost agonizingly so, in releasing music into the world.  That 2010 album appeared three years after Wilde first posted his music, and since then they've just released one other full-length, the outstanding Pleased To Meet You, and a Christmas-themed EP.

High expectations plus long waiting period equals for me a recipe for potential disappointment with Animal Tales, the fall 2014 album from the duo.  So if I say this is my least favorite KWMC album, you shouldn't interpret that as "it's a bad album."  On the contrary - Animal Tales is very good.  As you might expect from the album title and cover art, it's a themed album, a baker's dozen of songs about animals with varying amounts of lyrical similitude.  "Bear Song" is a straightforward recitation of the different kinds of bears, while "Armando Armadillo" is a little more fanciful, a song that echoes traditional Mexican music and which gives the title character a wife, a dozen kids (all named), and a job (gardener at a nursery).  The record's most abstract and least "factual" songs, which close out the album -- the instrumental "Hippo Dance" and the parable "Animal Island" -- are my favorites. 

When I try to pinpoint why I didn't react quite as strongly to this album as I have their other work, the best explanation I can come up with is that it's definitely less raucous than their previous albums, with no rave-up song like "Favorite Names," "The Rattling Can," or "Bigga Bagga" in the mix.  It's unfair, I know, to complain that this album is more Johnny Cash than Johnny Rotten just because our family (not just me) has found the punk side of KWMC the side that's stuck in our brains most often.

The album is most appropriate for kids ages 5 through 9.  You can listen to the 39-minute album here.  And while the album packaging isn't as elaborate on their debut, that cover art from Wilde himself is again another argument for physical copies of music (or, perhaps, a vinyl-sized mp3 player/smartphone for listeners to explore the illustration).

Would I recommend Animal Tales as the entry point to Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke to a family unfamiliar with them?  No, but that's only because the other two albums have wiggled their way into our families' consciousness so much and because this album gives the punk side of the duo short shrift.  But would I recommend Animal Tales?  Heck yeah.  Definitely recommended.

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

Weekly Summary (9/22/14 - 11/16/14)

Radio Playlist: New Music November 2014

As we hurtle into the fall/winter gift-giving season, there are a lot of albums that have crossed my desk recently.  I've got a fortnight's worth of songs for your family's enjoyment (if you listen to one track a night, which would be kind of weird). If you missed October's list, you can see that playlist here).

As always, it's limited in that if an artist hasn't chosen to post a song on Spotify, I can't put it on the list, nor can I feature songs from as-yet-unreleased albums.  But I'm always keeping stuff in reserve for the next Spotify playlist.

Check out the list here or go right here if you're in Spotify.

**** New Music November 2014 (November 2014 Kindie Playlist) ****

Moona Luna – Together (feat. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo)
The Laurie Berkner Band – Magic Box - Full Band Version
Music Inrichment – Down the Stream
In The Nick of Time – Road Trip
Splash'N Boots – Go with the Flow
Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips – Gratitude
Eric Ode – Possibly the Possum
The Wanna Bees – Valerie Vet
Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke – Katy Caterpillar
The SqueeGees – Outer Space
Papa Snow – Jimi Crack Korn
Alex Mitnick – In the Right Place
J. Cohen – Nightingale Waltz
Suzanne Jamieson Selmo – Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)

Video: "Armando Armadillo" - Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke

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A new album from the punk-Americana duo Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke is always cause for celebration.  So, let's celebrate the recent release of Animal Tales, the duo's latest album, filled with songs celebrating, well, animals.

And by "celebrate," what I mean is "watch the first video for the album."  It's for "Armando Armadillo," the ballad with an appropriately Mexican sound for the tale of the Texan/southwestern animal.  The video, of course, features illustrations from the Wilde, whose drawings are all over their music (and many other things).  And after you watch the video -- kids, ask your parents to tell you about the game "Frogger."

Plus, for a limited time download the track for free here!

Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke - "Armando Armadillo" [YouTube]