I'm looking forward to hearing Alison Faith Levy's brand new album The Start of Things, which gets a release on April 21. While a lot of Levy's kids music (both solo and with The Sippy Cups) has a big Wall of Sound, er, sound, the first song from the new album to get a video comes from a very different musical place.
"The Froggy Dance" is based on a nonsense poem handed down through generations and set to music by Levy. Levy turned to animator Maddie Loftesnes to bring to (visual) life the silly animals Levy sings about like the frog-bird. It's handmade and silly and fun.
Alison Faith Levy - "The Froggy Dance" [YouTube]
Sleepy this Monday morning? Need a pick-me-up? Then might I suggest the latest video from the awesome Sleater-Kinney? It's for "A New Wave," and features the characters from the Fox animated comedy Bob's Burgers dancing while animated versions of the trio play one of the strongest songs from their new album No Cities To Love. (Love drummer Janet Weiss shaking her head back and forth.)
While you or your kids might not pogo up and down like Tina Belcher, this'll serve as the equivalent of a cup of coffee or can of soda. Energy!
[Almost entirely unrelated note: I get to see Sleater-Kinney in concert this spring. Squeeee!]
Sleater-Kinney: "A New Wave" [YouTube]
First off, no, that's not a misprint -- the sixth Gustafer Yellowgold album really is called Gustafer Yellowgold's Wisdom Tooth of Widsom. The extra "wisdom" is for, er, wisdom.
Yes, that's a deliberate pose our favorite yellow alien from the sun is striking on the DVD cover, as the story inside deals with his search for wisdom.
As creator Morgan Taylor has run out of the original batch of songs that made up the first few Gustafer DVDs, individual DVDs have become more unified in structure, songs organized around a single principle. Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom is the first DVD, however, in which I felt like there was something at stake in the story. Rather than just illustrating a personality quirk (e.g., "I Jump on Cake," still a classic GY song), the songs here help move along a plot that sees Gustafer struggle with giving up something that's important to him and what the true source of wisdom is. His external journey -- finding the source of the titular tooth -- is matched by an interior journey.
Of course, the heart of any Gustafer DVD is still the music, and it's every bit as '70s-soft-rock-with-a-hint-power-poppy as ever. (That's a good thing, natch.) "Telephone Called" is a bit of Broadway jangle-pop, followed by the fuzzed-out and hand-clapped strains of XTC heard in "It Suits You." (Yes, the DVD case suggests that XTC reference, but darned if it doesn't hit the nail on the head.) One of my favorite tracks, "Toothloser," sounds to me like Billy Joel at his early '80s narrative best, with "Secret Fox" a wistful follow-up. Other strong tracks in "I Can't Feel My Face" (shout-out to Billy Shears!) and "Yawn," the first song I've heard that actually tries to be yawn-inducing. The music might have some odd lyrical references if you're not familiar with the video, but the music isn't dependent on the visuals for your enjoyment.
As always, the animation -- featuring Taylor's own art -- is minimal, more moving picture book, but it's the most technically-proficient video yet, often beautiful to look at. (There's a scene near the end where somebody's recording a meeting on a cell phone, and you can see the characters on the tiny phone's screen doing exactly what the actual characters are doing.) The videos themselves have some nice jokes for the adult (or smart kid) to appreciate in addition to the broad humor in many of them.
The video is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 10. You can watch a preview of the 41-minute DVD here. The DVD includes a couple bonus features (a 6- minute guitar lesson with Taylor for his hit "Cakenstein" and a 20-minute documentary about the making of the DVD) and more importantly, a 30-minute CD with all 10 songs from the video.
Now that Taylor has been living with Gustafer in his head and on the screen for more than a decade, he's had some time to stretch what he's going with the character and his world. This is all to the good, and makes me that much more excited about the next Gustafer video, already in the works. The music is definitely recommended, as good as ever, and the DVD is highly recommended, the best Gustafer Yellowgold video yet.
Note: I was provided a copy of the DVD/CD for possible review.
Danny Weinkauf's album No School Today is an example of kindie power-pop at its best, filled with excellent pop songcraft. Weinkauf's released a handful of videos that are every bit as slightly quirky but nicely done, and I'm pleased to world-premiere the latest video from the album, the video for "Champion of the Spelling Bee."
Now, I'm sure that being featured on ESPN as part of their Scripps National Spelling Bee coverage with the song was probably a bigger deal, but I like to think that this cute video, featuring animation from Vanessa Appleby and vocals from Weinkauf's son son Kai, will live on long after we forget the kids we see standing at the microphone each spring.
Danny Weinkauf - "Champion of the Spelling Bee" [YouTube]
For my tastes, Bay Area band The Hipwaders ranks right up there with Recess Monkey and Caspar Babypants in having kindie's best set of videos in terms of quality, quantity, and diversity. Their latest video for "Just Not Me," off their new album Year-Round Sounds, pulls in another animator into the Hipwaders' fold, Will Guy of Goopymart, and with just a handful of touches (the tattoo parlor, the backwards "E" in the title character's graffiti, perfectly captures the narrator's... recalcitrance to mind rules. Much fun.
The Hipwaders - "Just Not Me" [YouTube]