One of the signs of the maturation of the kids music genre is that there are more debut albums with a sense of confidence. Rather than tentative steps into what might be an unfamiliar world, more folks seem to have a very clear understanding of what their sound is and how their image might support it.
Most confident perhaps are Seattle's The Not-Its, who almost from the beginning they burst onto the web had a clear idea of their sound (finely honed alterna-pop, generally), lyrical aim (generally direct though not without the occasional knowing adult aside), and look (women dresses, men shirts with ties). And nothing on their debut We Are the Not-Its! suggests they've had any second thoughts about those things.
From the get-go, the band fires on all cylinders. Starting an album with your own "theme song" is often a dicey move, but "We Are The Not-Its" is one of the two or three best theme songs ever (bonus points for the nifty pun "It's only got one eye / And don't forget to dot it"). "When I'm Five" has a hook that could pull in Moby Dick; you'll probably want to play "Let's Birthday" more than just once a year. Though the songs tend toward alternative pop, they're perfectly willing to slow things down a bit, such as on the sweet "Helicopter" or the country "Dressin' Up." The voice of Sarah Shannon (who was the lead singer of '90s band Velocity Girl and who takes most of the lead vocals here) definitely is a big asset to the band as well.
There are points at which I thought the lyrics veered somewhat oddly between the too simplistic and too aimed-at-the-parents. "When I'm Five" features the lines "When you're five / They say there's so much to know / But I'll stay sharp as a tack or a whip or whatever / Until I figure out the status quo" and "I love my school / My teachers rule." (Hey, I love that first line, but I'm thinkin' that goes waaaay over the head of a four-year-old.) I think my favorite songs are the ones that don't necessarily impart simple life lessons (sharing is good, baths are good) but are just stories, such as "Shadows." But it's probably a credit to the songs themselves that those simple life lesson songs are pretty darn listenable, too.
The album is best for kids ages 3 through 7. You can hear the songs from the 30-minute album at their own page.
So, yeah, this album rocks. Families who are fans of Ralph's World, Justin Roberts, Lunch Money, or the Hipwaders shouldn't hesitate to get We Are the Not-Its as its combination of crunchy guitar-filled hooks and very kid-focused lyrics should prove very popular with that set. And it's just their first album -- can't wait to hear what comes next. Definitely recommended.