Sometimes a record just gets away from you. I can't pinpoint any particular reason why I never reviewed Best Friends, the 2006 debut album from the Los Angeles wife-and-husband team of Ellen and Matt. And I can't pinpoint the reason why I felt compelled to go back and re-listen to the CD more than a year after I first received it. But I'm glad I did.
To a great extent my initial thoughts on the CD hadn't changed much. On the plus side, the musical melodies and harmonies here are among the more sophisticated in the kids' new wave, sounding a little like Matthew Sweet on "Go To Bed," a little more like Pete Townshend on "Bounce." Leading off the album "Eat My Dinner" and "Side by Side" have a very sunny beat to them, while their follow-up, the album's title track, is a surprisingly complex waltz.
On the other hand, I sometimes wondered if the songs weren't aimed at 7-year-olds with subject matter of greater concern to 4-year-olds. That's why I think the album's best songs are the simplest -- the movement-oriented "Bounce" and "Juice Box Rock" and the sweet "The Goodbye Song." (And I also thought the production could've pushed the vocals a bit closer to the front, aiding the 4-year-old listener who's really the target audience here.) I think the songs here will appeal most to listeners ages 3 through 6. You can hear samples from the 31-minute album at its CDBaby page.
The reason I'm glad that I gave the CD another spin or two (OK, five), though, is that I was reminded of the solid songwriting chops on display here. The kids music genre is one in which second albums are often better than the first because the artists road-test their music and figure out what works and what doesn't with audiences of all ages. So if Best Friends sometimes feels a little bit like going around with training wheels, I've got a pretty good feeling that with their next album (production starts in early 2008), Ellen and Matt will be cruising around on their own two wheels.