Listen To This: "Camp Song" - KB Whirly

Camp Songs Vol. 1 cover

Camp Songs Vol. 1 cover

It's been a couple years since we heard the Whirlygigs album Greetings from Cloud 9.  This new track, from chief Gig KB Whirly's forthcoming album Camp Songs Vol. 1, is, well, just fun.  And while it's about camp and not camping, I think it's an excellent track to kick off your Memorial Day weekend, regardless of whether you're heading into the woods with a camping tent and a Coleman stove or into the backyard with some watermelon.

KB Whirly - "Camp Song" [YouTube]

Itty-Bitty Review: I Chew - Hullabaloo

I Chew album cover

I Chew album cover

I don't know if practice makes perfect, but it usually helps things considerably.  When you write a song a day for a month as Steve Denyes of San Diego's Hullabaloo did last year, not all the songs are going to be keepers, but the songwriting muscle will be stronger at the end than at the beginning.

For the band's latest album I Chew, Denyes (along with bandmate Brendan Kremer and Shawn Rohlf) took the best of the bunch, added a handful of new songs, and recorded them in their familiar simple folk-roots style.  The result is a collection of 16 songs that cover a surprisingly broad range of styles in its 21 minutes.  Silly songs like the nonpartisansong "Senator John Arthur Clydesdale III" bump up against the political "I Wear Pink," which gently makes the apparently still controversial argument that boys can wear pink and play with dolls.  (I know! But Denyes sings of actual pushback he received.)  "Air-O-Plane" is a sequel in many ways to Woody Guthrie's "Car Car" and "Aeroplane," while "I Can't Let It Go" speaks just as much to the 40-year-old obsessives as the 14-month old ones.  There's a hint of Shel Silverstein, too, in "Boring," not to mention the spoken word "Worm with Wings."  (The tracks will be most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 7.)

Denyes didn't just have a month to hone his songwriting -- he's been playing for kids for more than a decade.  And slowly but surely, he's become one of kindie's better songwriters, a living argument in favor of consistency while occasionally mixing things up (by, say, writing a song a day).  As he sings about in "Day 16," start trying to write a song, and eventually you'll have a song.  Do it often enough, and some of it will end up pretty good.  Definitely recommended.

Video: "We Live in an Orchestra" - The Pop Ups

The partnership between the Pop Ups and Amazon is paying dividends, if only because Amazon let Jacob and Jason create a half-hour special exclusively for Amazon Prime members, and then let them share it with the world.  "We Live in an Orchestra" from their stellar Great Pretenders Club album is like the funkiest ASMR song for kids ever, filled with taps and scratches and balloon pops.  Now they've done a video which, in its multiple iterations of Jacobs running around Jason's laboratory, is like a cartoon come to life.  So good!  (If I were picking from the spinning wheel, count me as "Happy :-)" and "Super."

The Pop Ups - "We Live in an Orchestra" [YouTube]

Podcast Review: Story Pirates Podcast

Story Pirates logo

Story Pirates logo

Arrrrrrrrr, this review be easy to write.

OK, that's the one and only pirate joke I'll make in this review, else I'd be afeared that you, dear audience, would make me walk...

There is, truth be told, nothing outwardly piratical about the Story Pirates.  There is, however, something slightly subversive about the group, which turns stories written by kids into sketch comedies (often with a musical number thrown in).  They do this live and in schools (more commonly in the New York City and Los Angeles areas, but also nationally).  They also perform a weekly radio on SiriusXM's Kids Place Live, and that's where this podcast is drawn from.

The format is fairly simple -- the host reads the story as sent in by the child, the troupe performs the story, and then the host talks to the author.  The stories are what you'd expect from kids -- the ones from 5- and 6-year-olds are less fully-fleshed out than the ones from the 10- and 11-year-olds, but they all have an imaginative spark that let the comedian/actors go off in crazy directions.  The subversive nature of the show -- that kids' ideas are worth exploring and celebrating -- is carried through the entire performance.  I don't think the Pirates are changing a single word of the story sent in -- the dialogue is performed as written, even if it's not grammatically perfect.  It's the performances, though, that keep the show entertaining for the parents and kids who are listening.  The show could be very boring if it merely consisted of dry readings of brief, unedited stories from first graders, but there's a verve and zippiness to the affair.

The podcast is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 10.  The iTunes link for the show is here, although you can of course find it elsewhere (here's their hosted podcast page).  Episodes are generally 10-20 minutes in length, released a couple times per month.  Aside from asking for donations for their organization at the start and end of the show, the show is ad-free.

Story Pirates would be valuable just for its idea of treating the ideas and creative output of kids as worth exploring, but there's lots of valuable stuff that as exciting as a day-old loaf of bread.  This is way better than a day-old loaf of bread, with laughter and heart to spare.

Top Kids and Family Podcasts (May 2016 Chart)

Last month I debuted a chart of the top-ranked audio podcasts.  Nearly a month has passed since that effort, and I thought it was time to check in and see how much it had changed.

As it turns out, to some extent, yes, but not dramatically so.  Many of the kid-focused podcasts that were at the top of the iTunes and Stitcher kids and family charts in April are there still, but others dropped out of one or the other, while other podcasts found their way.

Before I provide the list, I should note again that this is a blunt instrument, combining pure rankings from two fairly opaque charts, and for a variety of reason should not solely be used as a measure of quality.  But I do think it's interesting to see which podcasts are breaking through in some way to more than a niche audience.  (Results compiled from Top 100 podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts on Thursday, April 12, 2016.  Podcasts that appear on both charts are listed with numbers; remaining podcasts only appeared on one list.)

Also: pssst.

1.  Brains On
2. (tie) Stories Podcast
2. (tie) Storynory
4. Tumble
5. Story Pirates
6. Story Time
7. Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

Others (listed alphabetically): 1001 Classic Short Stories and Tales, Activated Stories, Adventures in Odyssey, Barefoot Books, Book Club for Kids, But Why, The Children’s Corner, Classics for Kids, Family Folk Tales, Little Stories for Tiny People, Molly and the Sugar Monster, Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, Podcast Kid, Spare the Rock Spoil the Child, Sparkle Stories, The Story Home, That Story Show

Monday Morning Smile: "Sing a Song" - Earth, Wind & Fire

So of course Earth, Wind & Fire are awesome, and "Sing a Song" is awesome.  And this video, which overlays the studio track onto some live footage (that choreography! those clothes!), is pretty awesome.  All of which begs the question:

How exactly has this not been covered by a kindie musician yet?

Earth, Wind & Fire - "Sing a Song" [YouTube]