Best Kids Music of 2015: Top 30 Songs

Developing a list of my 30 favorite songs from the past year is probably the most foolish ranking I attempt here every year.  The number of albums to consider is large, but it is finite.  Multiply that number of albums by 10 or 12, however, to consider the number of songs, and we're talking thousands of songs to consider.  And, as I noted last year, a list ranking favorite songs is "ephemeral, subject to the whims of a particular moment.  More than that, it probably tends toward the poppy, upbeat, and lively."  I feel confident, though, these 30 songs, listed alphabetically, are among the best that kids music offered us in the past year.  ("Year," as always, defined as Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 30, 2015, though with particular songs no doubt that range should be considered more guideline than firm window.)

Anyway, I've combined these into a handy Spotify playlist found at the bottom of this list (click here if you're already in Spotify).  Enjoy!

"If a Sandwich Was a Sandwich” - Turkey Andersen

"Grapes" - Andrew & Polly

"Use a Contraction" - The Bazillions

“Owl” - Big Block Singsong

 "Sad Baby” - Caspar Babypants

“La Golondrina” - Sonia De Los Santos

"Cuantos Tacos (The Taco Song)” - Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

“Loving Cup” - Cat Doorman

"Kitty Wampus" - Duke Otherwise

"Action, Friends, Action" - Funky Mama

"Tomorrow Is a Chance to Start Over" - Hilary Grist

"Cakenstein" - Gustafer Yellowgold

“It’s Gotta Rain (If You Want a Rainbow)” - The Harmonica Pocket

“If I Were a Bird” - Charlie Hope

"Sloop John B. (feat. Jesse Wagner)" - Josh and the Jamtones

"Breakfast Club (feat. Carly Ciaricchio)" - Tim Kubart

“To the Woods” - Molly Ledford & Billy Kelly

"Hello, Goodbye, Shalom" - Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights

"The Start of Things” - Alison Faith Levy

"Refreshments On Neptune” - Todd McHatton

"The Way We Gets Down” - Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips

“Together” - Moona Luna (feat. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo)

"Give Some, Get Some” - Papa Crow

“Indoor Picnic” - The Pop Ups

"Turkey in the Straw" - Red Yarn

"You Were Meant To Be" - Renee and Friends (feat. Glen Phillips)

"I Like to Ride My Bike” - Rock 'n' Rainbow

"Minnesota" - Rocknoceros

“All I Want” - Vered

"Get Happy" - The Verve Pipe

Best Kids Music of 2015: Top 30 Albums

Slowly but surely, I'm getting better about writing these "Best of" lists in something approaching timeliness.  Even if it might be a bit late for holiday gift-giving purposes, I'm writing about the best of 2015 in 2015.

This past year was another good one in terms of new releases, so once again it was difficult to narrow down the musical year -- I'd guess that I once again listened to 250-300 albums -- to what is, in essence, the my favorite 10%.

As always, my year-end best-of list matches the Fids and Kamily year -- that is to say, from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015.  So some good albums from the last couple months [waves at They Might Be Giants] will just have to wait for next year's list.

Trees cover

Trees cover

#1 (tie) - Molly Ledford & Billy KellyTrees

[Review] - "Like the trees they sing about, this duo's connection six years ago has grown into a sturdy friendship and musical collaboration. You're unlikely to hear a more joyful celebration of the natural world and our relation to it this year."

Great Pretenders Club cover

Great Pretenders Club cover

#1 (tie) - The Pop UpsGreat Pretenders Club

[Review] - "So often trailblazing releases are notable more for their context than their content, but in the case of Great Pretenders Club, the album's music is every bit as notable as the way it's been introduced to the world.  This is, simply put, one of the year's best albums."

How Great Can This Day Be cover

How Great Can This Day Be cover

#3 (tie) - Lori HenriquesHow Great Can This Day Be?

[Review] - "After winning the Joe Raposo Children’s Music Award, named for the composer of classic songs for Sesame Street and the Muppets, last year, her smart and joyful music, which sounds like it’d fit right in on those classic shows, is finding a wider audience.  Her new album How Great Can This Day Be shows off those musical talents."

Deep Woods Revival cover

Deep Woods Revival cover

#3 (tie) - Red YarnDeep Woods Revival

[Review] - "Red Yarn’s fervor for American folk music is evident on Deep Woods Revival.  While folk music has never gone away in the children’s music genre, he forcefully makes the case for its continued relevance in the era of the mp3."

Big Block Singsong cover

Big Block Singsong cover

#5 (tie) - Big Block SingsongBig Block Singsong Greatest Hits Vol. 1

[Review] - "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."

Beehives and Bedheads cover

Beehives and Bedheads cover

#5 (tie) - Duke OtherwiseBeehives and Bedheads

[Review] - "Looking for an album that provides guidance on moving through early childhood life transitions?  Move along, then, because this album kicks off with a song called “Dancing Pig” that answers the question, “What would a Tom Waits song about a prancing porcine sound like?,” and never really gets any less weird from there."

Peter and the Wolf and Jazz cover

Peter and the Wolf and Jazz cover

#5 (tie) - The Amazing Keystone Big Band w/ David Tennant - Peter and the Wolf and Jazz!

[Review] - "The melodies themselves are unchanged, but the band's arrangement brings in a wide variety of jazz styles -- stride piano, hip-hop, free jazz, blues, cool jazz, and the like.  None of the stylistic shifts seem out of place -- rather, they feel appropriate to the story."

Rocksteady cover

Rocksteady cover

#8 (tie)  - Josh and the JamtonesRocksteady

[Review] - "Have I made it clear enough that Rocksteady is a party, through and through?  Because it is, enough so that your kids probably won't even need that lullaby album to fall asleep to after dancing like crazy."

Jazzy Ash cover

Jazzy Ash cover

#8 (tie)  - Jazzy AshBon Voyage

[Review] - "With Bon Voyage, Jazzy Ash fully connects with her own family’s musical heritage, yet incorporates those 100-year-old traditions into 21st century kids music.  It's a buoyant and warm-hearted album for the younger set."

Where the Path Will Wind cover

Where the Path Will Wind cover

#8 (tie)  - Charlie HopeWhere the Path Will Wind: Songs, Stories and Friends 2

[Review] - "Where the Path Will Wind is essentially an audio magazine, an aural equivalent, perhaps, to her Sing As We Go! video series."

Tim Kubart Home cover

Tim Kubart Home cover

#8 (tie)  - Tim KubartHome

[Review] - "While I've always thought Kubart's music had their share of pop hooks, Home is bursting at the seams with them and is his best effort yet... [B]less Tim Kubart and his big pop heart."

The Start of Things cover

The Start of Things cover

#8 (tie)  - Alison Faith LevyThe Start of Things

[Review] - "Imagine, however, if other musical strains of the [1960s] -- psychedelic pop, Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production -- also found themselves working their way into kids'  music with songs for the youngest listener."

Night Night! cover

Night Night! cover

#8 (tie) - Caspar BabypantsNight Night!

[Review] - "I hope Ballew doesn't take this the wrong way, but his album is forgettable in all the right ways.  What I mean by that is the music, while catchy, isn't necessarily one bouncy hook-filled song after another.  Rather, it features a more consistent -- and obviously far mellower -- tone."

The eagle-eyed among you will note that that list includes a baker's dozen of albums, not ten.  I didn't squeeze an extra three albums into my ballot -- only 3 of those 6 albums tied for 8 made it in.  But it was such a hard choice that I'm sure I'd pick a different 3 every week.  For Fids & Kamily I need to make a choice.  But this is my list, and so I'm listing thirteen albums.

After these top thirteen, distinguishing between the rest of my list becomes even more difficult.  So once again I'm taking the easy way out - alphabetical order for albums 14 through 30.

Turkey AndersenTurkey Andersen [Review]

The BazillionsOn the Bright Side [Review]

Bunny ClogsWhales Can't Whistle [Review]

Cat DoormanCalling All the Kids to the Yard [Review]

Sonia De Los SantosMi Viaje: De Nuevo Leon to the New York Island [Review]

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam BandAdelante! [Review]

Hilary Grist - Tomorrow Is a Chance To Start Over [Review]

Gustafer YellowgoldDark Pie Concerns [Review]

Lloyd MillerGlory! Glory! Hallelujah! [Review]

Alastair MoockAll Kinds of You and Me [Review]

Keith MunslowTiny Destroyer [Review]

Pointed Man BandThe Flight of the Blue Whale [Review]

Recess MonkeyHot Air [Review]

Renee and FriendsSimpatico [Review]

RocknocerosPlymouth Rockers [Review]

Big World Audio TheatreThe Peculiar Tales of the S.S. Bungalow [Review]

Suz SlezakWatching the Nighttime Come [Review]

Video: "Pretend We Forgot" - The Pop Ups

After the surprise release of their wonderful album Great Pretenders Club, all that's left for The Pop Ups to do is release a bunch of fun videos.  The video for "Bird and Rhino" had a distinctive animation style; their new video for "Pretend We Forgot" features some slick dancing from the duo (and, really, mostly) by The Waffle Crew, a group of New York-area dancers.  How would you dance if you forgot how to dance?  The Waffle Crew (and Jacob and Jason) show us the way.

The Pop Ups - "Pretend We Forgot" [YouTube]

Intro to Kindie: Laurie Berkner

Laurie Berkner, photo by Jayme Thornton

Laurie Berkner, photo by Jayme Thornton

In my Intro to Kindie series, I've focused thus far on people who've had the opportunity to listen to thousands (if not tens of thousands) of kids music songs to try to select the twenty or so songs that would serve as a good introduction to kids music for the 21st century listener.

That's meant that my respondents thus far (and in the future) have not been musicians, but radio folks and others who've made it their job or hobby to listen to 250 or more albums per year.

But there are a handful of musicians I'm planning to feature here, musicians whose appreciation of the history and modern context of kids music rivals (or supersedes) that of folks like me.

Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs album cover

Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs album cover

So I'm tickled pink to have kids music superstar Laurie Berkner be the first musician to offer her own list of twenty songs to introduce to the kids' music newbie.  Berkner's on a roll at the momeny -- just this week, for example, Simon & Schuster announced that they'd be publishing three picture books in 2017 and 2018 -- but most importantly for the purposes of this particular exercise, her latest album, Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs, is set for release next week.  It's a 2-CD, 57-track (!) set that features 51 traditional children's songs plus six "bonus" tracks of Berkner's own songs that could easily join those traditional songs.

I love all these lists, and Berkner's is no exception, with a wonderful introduction kicking things off.

For me, the songs that really represent an artist or a genre are the ones that move me. They might make my body move, move me to laughter or move me to tears, but they affect me deeply in some way.  All of the songs that I've chosen as an introduction to kids' music have some element that I think is moving, as well as being representative of the ever-expanding world of kids' music.  Some of these songs are for very young children, some are for kids already in school, some are more for the parents, but to me most of them have a lovely sense of something joyful or beautiful, and often it's from the child's perspective. 

It goes without saying that there are now so many wonderful musicians making great music for families that it would have been impossible to put them all on this list.  Instead I just tried to include a sampling of music more recently written along with music that has stood the test of time.  "Sammy" by Hap Palmer is an exquisitely written song that made me cry as a kid, with a message that I still appreciate as an adult.  "I am a Paleontologist" is only one amazing song of many by They Might Be Giants.  I happen to think this one is genius in the way it combines content that is truly of interest to kids with a super catchy chorus and a sound that hints enough at crunchy guitar rock to tickle parents.

Brady Rymer's "Jump Up (It's a Good Day)" is a song that really moves me to jump and just makes me feel happy every time I hear it.  I only included one song from a musical because I think that music is easier to discover without much research, but I think that many amazing kids' songs come from that genre (I could do an entire list made up of songs exclusively performed by Julie Andrews). I also couldn't help myself, but as a bonus 21st track, I included Paul Simon's "St. Judy's Comet" because even though he didn't put it on a kids' album, Simon wrote it for his own son.  I sang it to my daughter for years, and I think it's one of those songs that takes on deep meaning only once you become a parent.  

Here are my 20 (OK, 21) bits of kids' music pleasure, in no particular order.  Enjoy!

"Jump Up (It's a Good Day)" - Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could

"Roller Coaster" - Kira Willey 

"Pop Fly"- Justin Roberts

"Spoonful of Sugar" - from Mary Poppins

"I am a Paleontologist" - They Might Be Giants (with Danny Weinkauf)

"Family Time" - Ziggy Marley

"Daddy-O" - Frances England

"Sammy" - Hap Palmer

"Glad To Have A Friend Like You" - Free To Be You And Me/Marlo Thomas and Friends

"Go Down Emmanuel Road" - Dan Zanes

"Good Morning My Love" - Vered

"The Garden Song" - Arlo Guthrie

"Upside Down" - Jack Johnson

"John The Rabbit"  - Elizabeth Mitchell

 "All These Shapes" - The Pop-Ups

"Music Everywhere" - The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

"Fly Birdy Fly" - Choo Choo Soul

"Walking With Spring" - The Okee Dokee Brothers

"The Marvelous Toy" - Tom Paxton

"Suppertime" - The Verve Pipe

"St. Judy's Comet" - Paul Simon

Photo credit: Jayme Thornton

Video: "Bird and Rhino" - The Pop Ups

Let's wrap up this (unofficial) Day of The Pop Ups -- sort of a pop-up Pop Ups site -- here at Zooglobble on a visual note.  We've had a review of Great Pretenders Club, the first kids music album to be released exclusively on Amazon Music.  And we've interviewed Jason Rabinowitz how the album came about and what we can expect in the future.

One of those things we can expect is a video for each of the album's 11 tracks.  The first video, for the track "Bird and Rhino," is already here.  It's purposefully slightly lo-fi animation nicely captures the track's occasional zaniness.  If you're going to stomp that fire out with a funnily voiced Rhino, that's not exactly something that cries out for verisimilitude.

You can watch the video directly on Amazon's website, but seeing as Amazon Music also has its own (embeddable) YouTube channel, let's go with that.

The Pop Ups - "Bird and Rhino" [YouTube]