Review: Alphabet Songs Vol. II (Ivan Idea) - Steve Weeks

This review really revs up when the reader reconsiders her readily held notions regarding the realism referred to in this record...

OK, I admit it, it's hard to write (or "rite," to continue the motif) reviews by focusing on a single letter. And so it begs the question, why would an artist set up such an obstacle?

For that very reason, I had some trepidation upon my initial spin of Steve Weeks' 2004 album Alphabet Songs Vol. II (Ivan Idea). Each of the nine songs focuses on a single letter, I through Q, and I feared lyrics stretched beyond anything remotely resembling (stop it!) enjoyment. Luckily, the CD passes the enjoyment test with flying colors. The lyrics themselves focus on a single letter, but generally not in a way to call attention to them. (Only if you're listening closely will you notice all the words starting with the appropriate letter.)

On the CD's best songs, the letters seem almost secondary. "Kiki Kangaroo" is a bouncy song about a kangaroo with a mind of its own, "Look, Look!" a midtempo rocker about noticing what's all around, and, my favorite, "Monkeys" is an amusing, laid-back track about, well, monkeys. (The song, which includes a completely gratuitous "Sound of Music" reference, has a very Jack Johnson-like vibe, which is a little ironic given Johnson's work on the Curious George soundtrack.) Some songs tend to show the effort of focusing on a single letter a little more (see letters "N" and "Q"), but there isn't a weak track on the album.

The album is nicely produced -- fun acoustic guitar work, with some funky percussion tracks and even an occasional banjo. The songs are mostly gently uptempo folk-inflected rock. To put the album in adult terms, I'd describe it as Barenaked Ladies meets Phish. (Weeks' voice even reminds me of one of the Ladies' singers.)

I'd recommend the album for children aged 5 through 9. It's a fun album (or, to end the motif, "really rockin'") and would probably work in a school setting (though it'd work outside of such a setting, too). You can get the album through the usual online retailing suspects and through Weeks' website.