When you receive as much kids music for review as I do, you have to guard against certain biases. Given the glut of material, what tends to get reviewed is either stuff that's in the traditional folk/pop/rock vein, but very good (see: Justin Roberts, Ralph's World, Laurie Berkner, Recess Monkey, etc.); not in that folk/pop/rock vein (see: hip-hop, country, jazz); and stuff that's just so out there that you have to tell someone about it if only to show what risks people are taking these days. (And then you have Dan Zanes, who in the Venn diagram of those 3 categories is the only one who intersects all three.) With the last category especially, there's some risk that the uniqueness of the material is outweighing, you know, the actual interest to the kids.
So let me be clear, The Thin King, the debut CD from the San Francisco band Me 3 falls squarely in that 3 category. I mean, sure, it's got songs that would definitely be considered rock ("I Don't Know," perhaps, or "Apple," which is an appealingly crunchy and lo-fi mid-tempo rocker). But the more familiar-sounding styles are melded with subjects very focused on the natural world (hence "Apple," or "Tulip," and "Cows"), not in an educational way (which would be pretty conventional), but pretty much in an observational manner. (In this case it sounds a lot like Mr. David, or maybe a little bit like if World Party did a kids CD.) There are lots and lots of questions on the album -- "I Don't Know," for example, or "Cows." What is the album title, after all, if not a play on the word "thinking."
Beyond that, you have odd little spoken-word interludes; the goofy trilogy of "Short Song," "Shorter Song," and "Shortest Song" (which, yes, is pretty much what the titles promise); and Pachelbel's Canon borrowed for "When It All Began." Oh, and just as you begin to think that band mastermind Jason Kleinberg is maybe a little self-serious, "Next Song" interrupts some mock serious banter with a request to "play the next song!," which results in Kleinberg mis-hearing and not playing the "necks song." In other words, the goofy 7-year-old humor fits in nicely among the more serious "thinking" songs.
So, yeah, the 41-minute album's geared mostly for kids ages 6 through 10. You can hear some songs both at the band's website and their Myspace page, and samples of all the songs at the album's CDBaby page.
The Thin King is one of the more unusual-sounding kids music albums of the year. It also happens to be a lot of fun. While it's not the most conventional of CDs, with its imagery and musical melding of styles, it'll certainly capture the imagination of some families. Recommended.