Video: "Dance With Me" - The Not-Its!

The Not-Its! Are You Listening album cover

The Not-Its! Are You Listening album cover

Seattle band The Not-Its have a brand new album set for release next week -- February 19, to be specific.  It’s called Are You Listening? and unsurprisingly there are more than a couple tracks that could cause involuntary pogoing and/or headbanging in your child.  Chief among those tracks may be the leadoff single “Dance With Me,” which gets a nifty hand-animated video from Chris Looney.  Looney describes the process of creating the video here -- those are Not-Its puppets, folks.

The Not-Its! - "Dance With Me" [YouTube]

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]

Review: Gustafer Yellowgold's Dark Pie Concerns - Gustafer Yellowgold

Gustier Yellowgold's Dark Pie Concerns album/DVD cover

Gustier Yellowgold's Dark Pie Concerns album/DVD cover

Can it be true?  Can Gusfater Yellowgold's Dark Pie Concerns really be the seventh album from Gustafer Yellowgold?

Of course it's true -- why would I start out this review with a bunch of untrue rhetorical questions?  Over the course of more than a decade and those seven albums, Morgan Taylor has crafted an entire world about the yellow guy from the sun wrapped in a gauzy '70s AM-rock packaging.  The songs are catchy, but what lodges Gustafer into the kindie listener's memory are the lyrics and the videos illustrating Taylor's often surreal subjects and stories.

Sure, you can hear "Sunny Side" as a song celebrating waking up early and having a positive attitude, but the video suggests that it's really celebrating eggs cooked sunny side up (and features at one point some 8-bit squirrels).  "Dark Pie" brings a little electronic percussion (hints of Wilco's update of '70s soft rock on "Heavy Metal Drummer") to the public and private shame that is overbaking of pies.

This is an album of food-inspired songs and while there's always been more than a hint of food antagonism in the Gustafer oeuvre, that comes out in full force here -- from the Gary Glitter stomp of "Rock Melon" to the slightly disturbing craziness of "Gravy Insane" to the food-gone-amock soft-rock-turned-electro-rock-rap of "Cakenstein." (I love "Cakenstein.")  But Taylor indulges his softer XTC side as well, particularly on tracks like "Cinnamon Tap," "Strawberry Love," and "I Sandwich," which is an odd metaphor for love.

If there's any change from prior GY work, it's that unlike the past few albums, there is no story throughline to the album.  It has its "food" theme (though like They Might Be Giants' numbers and letters-inspired albums, it's as much a jumping-off point as anchor), but there's no plot per se.  That's fine, but I do miss those attempts at broader stories.

You can get the 29-minute album either as part of the DVD/CD set or just the album alone.  I think the music stands up on its own, but hopefully I've made the case for the videos as well.  The DVD/CD set also includes sing-along versions of all the songs, along with a 24-minute bonus video featuring Taylor telling you how to draw Gustafer's best friend, the pterodactyl Forrest Applecrumbie, with occasional sound clips from other songs.  As with all Gustafer albums, the sweet spot is for kids ages 3 through 8.

Gustier Yellowgold's Dark Pie Concerns is another surreal trip through the Gustafer universe, funny and memorable, both musically and visually.  Even if this trip doesn't head anywhere in particular, it's still fun to meander with him.  Definitely recommended.

Note: I was provided a copy of this DVD/CD set for possible review.

Movie Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie poster

Shaun the Sheep Movie poster

I posted some comments about a recent animated movie on Facebook -- I wouldn't normally call out a movie in a review of a different movie, but the story doesn't work if I don't say that it was Minions.  I suggested that that movie failed to fully make me care about the characters and seemed to tire of the plot about two-thirds of the way through, and someone said, what do you expect from a movie in which the primary characters don't speak any sort of recognizable language?

To which I replied that I fully expected Aardman Animation to create characters I care about and a compelling in the upcoming Shaun the Sheep Movie.

My love for Aardman dates back to well before I kids, more than 20 years ago when in 1993 I first saw The Wrong Trousers, the second movie to feature Wallace and Gromit, a British bachelor with a predilection for absurd inventions (Wallace), and his down to earth dog (Gromit).  Aardman specializes in stop-motion animation with clay.  Director Nick Park and his Aardman animators did such an amazing job giving emotional expression to Gromit, who doesn't speak, doesn't even make a single sound, in that movie, that I was hooked, and have seen much of their output since.  (Think of them, to some extent, as a British Pixar, though one that's been around for more than 40 years, and long before Park and Wallace and Gromit.)

The third W&G movie (1995's A Close Shave) was about a sheep rustler, and featured in a small role a diminutive and somewhat plucky sheep which Wallace named Shaun.  In 2007, Shaun got his own TV series in which he and his flock had been transferred to a farm in northern England. The basic gist of the series, which features 7-minute episodes, is that Shaun and his flock -- who are particularly smart and with human-like skills -- get into simple adventures (e.g., wanting to have a dance party) but need to fix whatever goes awry without The Farmer (as he is only known) figuring out their unusual sentience.  All the other animals have sentience -- some, like Bitzer, the sheepdog, are the sheep's friends (mostly), while others, like the pigs, are not.  Think of it as Toy Story, but with animals, shorter, more slapstick-y, and with a certain British reserve, with everything always tied up with a nice little bow, order restored.

And essentially silent, as the sheep just bleat, the other animals only make their relevant animal sounds, and the humans only occasionally mutter nonsense babbling.  The TV show is in many ways an essential classic for 3-to-7-year-olds of just about any culture.

So, high bar set, I looked forward to Shaun the Sheep Movie with excitement and some trepidation.  How do you translate the 7-minute medium into something essentially 12 times its length?  Could you hold the interest of kids in what is basically an 85-minute silent movie?  And  would Aardman make me understand and care about the characters?

The basic plot of the movie is a TV episode writ (very) large.  The sheep, through their machinations accidentally send the Farmer to the Big City, Bixter in pursuit, and they quickly realize that while they enjoyed their freedom, they miss the Farmer and the order he provides.  (The three pigs take over the house, and a brief clip shows them dancing to what sure sounded like Primal Scream's "Rocks.")  So off they head to the city, and... well, I'm not going to divulge the rest of the plot other than to say, yes, everything is tied up with a nice little box, order restored.

In a brief prologue, the movie neatly outlines the farm family's long affinity for one another, which explains why the sheep and Bixter would go to such troubles to retrieve the Farmer, who is oblivious to what is going on.  The stakes are higher as well -- while basically the only thing at stake in the series is whether the Farmer will discover the animals' abilities, the movie raises the possibility that the Farmer will never return to the farm, and with the addition of the animal control officer Trumper, the possibility that the animals themselves might be harmed.  (Trumper is too over-the-top for my taste, but subtlety in plot has never been the series' calling card.) Directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak keep the animals moving along through the city, and while it drags at points, the set pieces (such as a bit in a fancy restaurant) are very well-done.  So on the character-and-plot development count, Shaun the Sheep Movie far exceeds Minions.

But don't think this is some highfalutin silent art movie -- I stopped counting the underwear/butt/poop jokes when the figure hit double-digits.  Yes, there are any number of visual puns (my favorite: the sign in the Big City listing its "sister cities" in foreign countries... all of which translate into "Big City" in other languages) and call-outs to other movies (Cape Fear, anyone?) for the adults and older kids to pick out, but for the most part this is a slapsticky film.  While it won't turn on the Pixar waterworks, the movie may generate more kindergartener belly laughs than most Pixar movies as well.  (As I'd expect, Aardman's crew has the clay animation and set design down pat.)

So in the end, I was pretty pleased with Shaun the Sheep Movie -- longtime fans (like myself and my family) will enjoy it, and there's nothing that would prevent newcomers from getting hooked into the characters.  Definitely recommended.

Note: my family and I attended an early press screening of the movie.

Video: "Walking My Cat Named Dog" - They Might Be Giants

We here at Zooglobble HQ (which, to be clear, is my house) are looking forward to the forthcoming kids music album from They Might Be Giants.  The as-yet-untitled (to the public) album would be the first kids album from the band since 2009's Here Comes Science.

I don't have much inside information, but back in April as part of their Dial-A-Song project they released a song and video for "Thinking Machine," and its trippy, animated video and meta-silly lyrics were widely interpreted as being perfect for the upcoming kids album.

And last week they released another song that most folks are thinking is definitely going on that kids album, too -- "Walking My Cat Named Dog," a remake of a song written and released by Norma Tanega back in 1966.  (The song hit #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.)  With its species-bending premise (the spiritual precursor, I suppose, of Trout Fishing in America's "Chicken Joe," about a cat named, well, you know), it seems like a swell fit for the band.

It's a mellow romp, with some witty animation from Mixtape Club.  Even if it's not on the next album, definitely one for the kiddos.

They Might Be Giants - "Walking My Cat Named Dog" [YouTube]

Video: "Siete Elefantes" - Mister G (World Premiere!)

Los Animales album cover

Los Animales album cover

Over the past few years, Massachusetts-based Ben Gundersheimer -- best known to the under-6 set as Mister G, has released a number of albums partially or even predominantly in Spanish, and he shows no sign of stopping that trend.  He's just released Los Animales (the album title's a pretty good clue as to the album's theme and primary language) and to celebrate, the album's first video for its title track, world-premiered here!

Mister G teams up with the same folks who created the animated video for "Cocodrilo" -- director Leo Antolini and animator Andrea Cingolani.  This one's every bit as charming as that one, a rainbow of animals.  Non bastante!   More, please!

Mister G - "Los Animales" [YouTube]