Rainbows and Unicorns and Kids Music (Foreverywhere - StevenSteven)

Foreverywhere album cover

Foreverywhere album cover

If teaching kids how to be patient -- how to defer gratification until later -- is a useful skill, then the release of Foreverywhere, the debut album from StevenSteven, may be the world's most important parental tool.

Perhaps you think I'm kidding that an album about rainbows and unicorns is the most anticipated album in kids music history?  Let me put it this way -- I made a joke about how kindie fans had waited so long for the album that it had become the Chinese Democracy of kids music.

Twice.  I'd forgotten that I'd made the joke already.

But here we are, February 24, 2017 -- more than a decade since former Blue's Clues star Steve Burns and Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd first unleashed upon kids music the world's most awesome tribute to Groundhog Day -- and, yes, Foreverywhere is out in the world and the result is rainbows and unicorns, and in particular, a guitar-shredding Princess Rainbow and a Lonely Unicorn who joins her band, falls in love, loses her, then searches literally the entire universe to find her again.

Honestly, the whole album feels a little bit like that sentence -- epic, heartfelt, and a little rambling at points.  (Also, it's meticulously crafted, which is probably more than I can say about the sentence.)

After several listens, I came to think of the album as three EPs smooshed together.  There's the science-y, "fact"-based set of songs in the first half -- the fuzzy psych-rock of "Mimic Octopus," the game-show-turned-pop-song "OK Toilet Bowl," and the song guaranteed to put a smile on my face every time I listen to it, "A Fact Is A Gift That You Give Your Brain" -- those are the tracks that will make power-pop fans of any age move their heads to the rhythm.  Then there's the goofier and sometimes downright odd takes on kids music tropes in the second half -- "If You're Ginormous And You Know It" features one giant drummer, while "The Happy Then Sad Then Triumphant Spider" takes more than six minutes to tell the tale of one spider, one rain spout, and one sun.  (It's like those chorales that take their lyrical inspiration from about 3 lines of Biblical verse.)

And the third set is the epic story of the Lonely Unicorn and his search for Princess Rainbow, which stretches across 3 songs spread through the entire album.  If you think six minutes is too long of a song for your favorite 4-year-old, wait 'til you play them the nearly 11-minute closing title track.  And I suppose that's where some parents will think, "AWESOME!" and other parents will say, "ARE YOU NUTS?"  Personally I am sympathetic to the latter group -- I'm not sure how many younger kids will retain their attention on those longer, somewhat sleepier tracks -- but am pleased that the duo just went for it.  (Skip the tracks, go back to "A Fact," if you need the shorter blast.)

You may hear lots of kids music this year, and you may even hear kids music this year you like more than Foreverywhere, but I'm pretty sure you're not going to hear anything like it in kids music this year.  There is no small amount of rainbows and unicorns in this album ready to be unleashed upon the world, and, yeah, it was worth the wait.  Definitely recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this album for possible review.

Listen To This: "Hey Matt" - Walter Martin (with Matt Berninger)

My Kinda Music album cover

My Kinda Music album cover

It's been nearly three years since the kids music world had a family music album from Walter Martin.  We're All Young Together was an appealingly shaggy collection of songs inspired by Martin's memories of growing up in a family with lots of music playing, both at home and on road trips.  While "appealingly shaggy" applies to a not insignificant percentage of favorite kindie albums at Zooglobble HQ, We're All Young Together also featured something more unusual among kids music albums -- serious indie cred.  When you can get Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Alec Ounsworth from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, among others, to play on your album,  then you definitely have some sway.

Those weren't the only artists on the album -- Martin also roped in Matt Berninger from The National on "We Like the Zoo," which received one of the more unique videos in recent kids music video memory.

Well, news this morning that Martin has a brand new album coming out called My Kinda Music, and in addition to a duet with Laura Gibson, Martin also duets once more with Berninger.  It's for the song "Hey Matt," a celebration of unique voices in music.  It's goofy, and features a second verse plot twist (for lack of a better phrase) that might confuse the kiddos but will greatly amuse the older music fans in the audience.

My Kinda Music is out May 5th.  Can't wait.

Walter Martin (with Matt Berninger) - "Hey Matt" [YouTube]

What Is Music? Let Christian Robinson and Some Kids Tell You

I stumbled across the video below recently, and I was completely charmed, both by the voices of kids but also -- and probably even more -- by the animation from Christian Robinson.  He uses a variety of styles to accompany the voices of kids answering the question "What is music?" and other musical inquiries -- pen-and-ink (there's a touch of Ed Emberley there), stop-motion cutouts, photograph-and-drawing mashups.  Sure there's humor in the kids' occasional off-balance response -- "My favorite kind of jazz is... Michael Jackson" says one boy with a well-placed dramatic pause -- but the animation is made with heart.

Robinson graduated from CalArts in 2008 (his "Dinosaur Song" from that year is worth checking out as another winning meld of subject matter and varied animation styles) and over the past nine years he has, not surprisingly, had an impressive set of authors to illustrate for: Margaret Wise Brown, Mac Barnett, and Matt de la Pena for Last Stop on Market Street, for which de la Pena won the Newbery Award and Robinson a Caldecott Honor.  And, to bring it back to kindie for the moment, he also illustrated Justin RobertsThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade.

But all that was in the future when Robinson made this video.  It's charming and worth your time.

Christian Robinson - "What Is Music?" [Vimeo]

Listen To This: "The Cardoons" - Pointed Man Band (World Premiere!)

As the drabness of winter hangs on, the thoughts of kids (and their parents) turn to sunshine and outdoor explorations.  As an unofficial theme song to this run-up to spring, might I suggest "The Cardoons"?  It's the first single from Portland's Pointed Man Band forthcoming album Between the Waves and the Cardoons, and the track is a particularly joyful celebration of enjoying youth, not only from the perspective of the young ones themselves, but also their parents.  For this, the album's closing track, PMB mastermind Dan Elliott also brought along Jack Forman (Recess Monkey) and Josh Shriber (Josh and the Jamtones) to sing along on the chorus.

"From the firewood / To the neighborhood."  Indeed.

I'm pleased as punch to offer up the world premiere of "The Cardoons" today (along with that sweet GIF).  Between the Waves and the Cardoons is released on March 3, and you can pre-order the album here.  Enjoy the song!