Review: Changing Skies - The Jellydots

ChangingSkies.jpgIn the comparatively small world of kids music, I'm not sure there's been an album that has shook up the genre recently as much as the Jellydots' debut CD Hey You Kids!. At time it rocked, other times it was gently sweet, but it seemed to resonate with parents who might never have given the genre a second thought.

So how exactly does one follow up such a standout release? You pretty much have two choices -- follow the template exactly, or throw away the mold. For Doug Snyder, chief Jellydot, the answer was more the latter than the former and you can hear the results on Changing Skies, the followup CD currently available in digital formats and available on physical CDs in the not-too-distant future for old fogeys like me.

How is it different? Well, the primary difference is that the subject matter is definitely geared towards older kids. It's not that Hey You Kids! was necessarily a perfect album for a 3-year-old -- it was definitely more for 6-year-olds and older. But songs about dropped cookies and going to camp, and treating each other with respect were definitely for kids. On the new album, though, Snyder often writes songs about 14-year-olds, or even their older siblings. "Remember Me" is a beautiful song which conjures up every memory you never had about a tenth-grade romance with a girl who moved away. "Art School Girl" is a dryly humorous reggae-tinged track about a young woman who moves away from Austin because she thinks life will be more exciting elsewhere and ends up working in Starbucks. Your 3-year-old might bop her head to the tune, but won't really care about the lyrics.

The album isn't totally a missing My So-Called Life soundtrack -- "Big Swingset," for example, is about, well, a swingset and moves briskly in 7/4 time (a meter which, I assure you, is not found on most pop-rock albums), while "Sad Robot" is a slower track about a robot who'd much rather be zooming through space. And for those of you who loved the lullabies at the end of the first CD, Snyder doesn't disappoint here, either -- "When You Were Born" and "Pretty Little Baby" evoke Paul Simon and Elliott Smith in tenderness. So, yeah, there are some songs for the youngsters, but the overall vibe is for kids older than them.

I'm going to peg the primary audience here at ages 9 and up. You can listen to samples and purchase the CD at CDBaby or hear a couple songs at the Jellydots' Myspace page. (Order it at iTunes here.)

In its own way, Changing Skies an experiment in creating a different path for family music, one that attempts to include all family members in the musical journey. Dan Zanes has blazed this trail most successfully, but with this album, deliberately or not, Doug Snyder is seeing whether or not a more rock-based approach might also work. I'm not sure everybody in a family will like all the tracks equally, but I'm pretty sure at least somebody will like each track in turn. And I definitely think the adults who liked Hey You Kids! will like this new one, too. Recommended.