Review: Ladybug One - The Harmonica Pocket

LadybugOne.jpgI hesitate to use the phrase "the most unusual kids' album you'll hear all year," because, I assure you, no matter how unusual a particular kids music album, I've heard odder ones (don't get me started). So let me describe Ladybug One, the second kids' CD from the Seattle-area Harmonica Pocket thusly: It's the most unusual good kids' album you'll hear all year.

I hope that doesn't sound like damning with faint praise, because the album is quite good. But it's definitely not a collection of straightforward kids' pop, folk, rock, jazz, or anything else. Oh, sure, there are a few elements of that here -- the indie-pop "Spiders In My Breakfast," re-appropriated from the band's first album (for adults), and the soulful and jazzy take on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," for example, are fun tracks that don't sound too unfamiliar. "One Tree Said" sounds like a track from a future Decemberists kids' CD. But many of the other tracks veer into more challenging territory -- the psychedelic "I Love the ABCs" or the number of songs on which band mastermind Keeth Apgar explores Indian music. You might not think that "O Susanna" and sitar and tabla percussion would make a good fit, but it does, actually helping to hear the song fresh.

In fact, one of the most successful things about the album is how the wide variety of instruments here (including didgeridoo, mbira, and saw, and quite possibly my favorite, hula hoop) serve the songs, not the other way round. The instruments aren't being used to show off -- they genuinely make sense within the context of the songs. And kids will enjoy the variety of songwriting approaches -- story, metaphor, humorous, counting. It makes "Mere Bacche Ke Liye Lori," a Hindi lullaby, which could potentially come off as pretentious, sound part of a whole.

The album will be of most interest to kids ages 3 through 7. You can hear clips from the 55-minute album (many of which have been reworked from their first kids album) at the album's CDBaby page, or listen to four excellent tracks at the band's own music page.

The Harmonica Pocket's Labybug One is unusual, but a couple spins of this low-key but well-crafted album should make many listeners aware of its numerous charms. Definitely recommended.