Last week I wrote about how kids music had made small inroads into my workout mix, so that I have Ralph's World and the Hipwaders scattered amongst my U2 and LCD Soundsystem tracks.
Today I'm going to give you a list of ten kids music albums I've listened to without my kids around. Not in a mindless "it's in the CD player and I'm too lazy to change disks" or "I need to review this" way, but in an active, "I want to listen to that along with that Spoon disk and the new Kathleen Edwards" way. They're also disks that I can see myself listening to 10 or 15 years from now when I'm out of the primary age range for most of these albums.
Now, before I provide this list, I should note that this is in no way my list of favorite kids' albums, though I think some of these albums would definitely make that list. In fact, I think sometimes I look so favorably on these albums as a result of how they please the "adult" sensors in my brain and it overrides the "kids" sensors.
I mean, I think Justin Roberts and Recess Monkey and Laurie Berkner and many others put out great albums. And there are some songs on their albums that I would gladly listen to deep into old age. But would I listen to Whaddaya Think of That? 10 years from now? I doubt it. It's not wrong in the way having the Disney Channel on one of the gym TV sets this morning was wrong (what was somebody thinking?), but I just don't myself being interested except mostly as nostalgia.
The list and a few thoughts are after the jump... feel free to add your list of CDs that have become more yours than your kids in the comments.
As I was thinking the CDs for this list, I noticed that there was a strong showing of songs that have more than their share of smart-aleck in them. Probably because I have more than my fair share of smart-aleck in me.
No! - They Might Be Giants (review): I was listening to TMBG for 15 years before they put out this, their first album for kids. It's safe to say that I will continue to listen to everything they put out for a long time. Having said that, I think this is the most "adult" of their kids' albums. But, really, I could put anything titled Here Comes... right here.
Make Some Noise - The Quiet Two (review): These guys used to tour (in another band) with TMBG. So, no, I'm not surprised that their kids music is totally listenable on an adult level.
Central Services Presents... the Board of Education - Central Services (review): Because this is targeted at kids who have just reached double-digit ages, it's not hard for those who have been in the double-digit age-category for a long time to join in, too.
Snacktime - Barenaked Ladies (review): It's as if the band never grew up after Gordon... in a good way. I hope this isn't their last kids album.
There are more kids music albums that aren't quite in the smart-aleck category that I could list here, but I've limited myself to just one. But, really, could I have put a Frances England, Gustafer Yellowgold, or Duplex CD here? Sure...
Silly Reflection - Lunch Money (review): Now, this album has received enough kudos that I know I'm not absurdly attached to it. Well, OK, I am absurdly attached to it, but with good reason.
I decided to not include lullaby CDs in this list, though some like Mae Robertson's and Dean Jones' disks probably will long outlast their lullabying. I did, however, include the following movie soundtrack. Movie soundtracks are currently a safe refuge for adult artists who want to make a nominal kids' album (see: Ben Folds, Paul Westerberg). But I'm not sure they're really making a "kids' album."
Hoodwinked Soundtrack - Todd Edwards et al. (review): So I know that this album probably isn't a great "kids album." But it has some absolutely awesome songs on it. And my kids really do like it.
Now we get to that category of kids music which isn't exactly kids music. Dan Zanes has created a paradigm shift -- or shift back -- with his concept of "all-ages" or "age-desegregated" music, which is brilliant because it not only encourages generations to listen and dance together, but also because it insulates him from his audience outgrowing his music.
Catch That Train! - Dan Zanes (review): I could have just easily put most of his disks here, including his Carl Sandburg disk and Sea Music, but this is still my favorite album of his. It is such an awesome disk, exuberant and joyful.
You Are My Little Bird - Elizabeth Mitchell (review): This album is joyful, too, though in a much more subdued manner. I'll gladly listen to any of her disks, but this, her most recent, is the most polished and most diverse in its song selection.
When I Get Little - Dog On Fleas (review): This band comes closest to the spirit of Dan Zanes of any artist or band out there, and is even more adventurous at times.
Finally it's the album I was thinking of when I started, and whose album cover is there at the top.
Table Top People Vol. 1 and 2 - Session Americana (review): They didn't quite set out to make a kids' album. A lot of the songs, frankly, really aren't kids songs at all. But the way in which songs for kids and songs for adults intermingle is how music should be experienced -- sometimes you learn something from your kids, sometimes they learn something from you, and everybody has a great time.