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)

Video: "Just For You" - Caspar Babypants

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There's a brand new Caspar Babypants album coming out next month.  I know, Chris Ballew's productivity sometimes makes it seem like there's a brand new Caspar Babypants album coming out every month, but that's really not the case.

The brand new album is called Night Night! and it's CB's lullaby(-ish) album.  It's set to be released on March 17 and in anticipation of the release, Ballew has released a brand-new lo-fi video every bit as brilliant as his other lo-fi videos.

It features a bunch of pictures of Ballew as a baby, but I can assure you that his one simple trick turns something that would be of interest for about 10 seconds into a genuinely fun 3-minute video.

Caspar Babypants - "Night Night" [YouTube]

Video: "Gravy Insane" - Gustafer Yellowgold

Based on the lyrics and video for "Gravy Insane," the brand new song from Gustafer Yellowgold, perhaps the follow-up to the excellent Gustafer Yellowgold's Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom will explore slightly darker paths.  The song recounts how Gustafer's forest friends become gravy gluttons, keeping in line with the Gusta-verse's previously established food obsessions ("I Jump on Cake," anyone?).

Then again, reminders that bats can't drive cars are inherently humorous, IMO.

Gustafer Yellowgold - "Gravy Insane" [YouTube]

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

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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.

Video: "HBD, Dude!" - Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips (World Premiere)

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Southern California's Mista Cookie Jar is testing my hyphenating abilities.  His blend of hip-hop, soul sounds, Motown riffs, California vibes, and whatever else he throws in the mix can be too much for the English language too handle.

For his latest track, "HBD, Dude!," MCJ and his Chocolate Chips mix a surf-rock guitar track and some flowing verses that include the word "hashtag" to produce a very 21st-century celebration of someone's birthday.  (You can buy the track via that link above, or iTunes and CD Baby as well...)

For the video, which I'm world-premiering here today, Mista Cookie Jar can't be contained to a single POV, either.  He takes Beach Blanket Bingo-era footage, hand-animates it a bit, and throws in a nice Facebook/Instagram reference or three.  Throw in some kids eating cake and surf-dancing, and you've got yourself a party.

I'm going with "surf-hop."

Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips - "HBD, Dude!" [YouTube]

Video: "Snow Day" - Josh and the Jamtones

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Can a kids music video be called post-apocalyptic?

Should it?

All I know is that younger kids of tender heart (as judged by their caretakers) should probably be directed to another, mellower kindie video.  As Josh of Josh and the Jamtones puts it in the comments to the YouTube video, "If you're kicking it with your little 2 year old baby sister who maybe prefers ponies and the color purple to polar bears with laser beam guns then you might consider telling them to scram. You know, in as kind a way as possible."

The animation is from Arsen Rudchenko, and if it's not on the forthcoming Bear Hunt: The Movie! DVD (out January 21), I'll be sorely disappointed.

Josh and the Jamtones - "Snow Day" [YouTube]