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]

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.

Video: "The Froggy Dance" - Alison Faith Levy

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]

Monday Morning Smile: "A New Wave" - Sleater-Kinney

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]

Review: Gustafer Yellowgold's Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom - Gustafer Yellowgold

GustaferYellowgoldWisdomToothOfWisdom.jpg

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.