Over the past couple years, I've received a number of Spanish-language kindie albums. I've wanted to like them, I really have, but found that very few were worth spinning for the music alone. Whatever pedagogical value they may have had -- and most of them were designed to teach Spanish -- most were musically unremarkable. Albums from Dan Zanes and Mariana Iranzi -- albums that incidentally weren't designed to teach Spanish -- were the exception. Of course there are classic albums from Suni Paz and José-Luis Orozco, but they are far more traditional in their sound. So I greeted the news of Moona Luna with anticipation -- the Latin-alternative band Pistolera led by Sandra Velásquez, daylighting as a family rock band? Yes, please (or, in the lingua franca of this review, si, por favor!)
So while it's difficult to create music that entertains while teaching, on their debut Piñata Party, Moona Luna are up to the challenge with songs that feature bilingual lyrics and preschool-focused subjects. "Tomorrow's Another Day (Mañana Es Otro Día)" has an poppy, earwormy chorus and features the accordion (a staple of a lot of Norteño and Tejano music generally as well as this album). My favorite track on the album, "Hay Que Trabajar (We All Have To Work)," in addition to being a zippy Mexican pop song, is the first song I've heard which explains the difference between working and playing and why both are important. And the track "¿Queires Bailar?," about a cow (la vaca) looking for a friend to dance with, is just a fun bounce-along song that does also work in several other animals and their Spanish names.
A couple other shout-outs: Dan Zanes makes an appearance on "Brinca, Jump!," a song encouraging jumping on the bed. Also, their take on the classic "De Colores" rocks a lot more than most versions I've heard. Even if you've grown tired of hearing the song -- I have at least a half-dozen versions in my library -- I think you'll appreciate their more energetic take on the album, which is probably the closest to "rock" the album gets.
If there's any downside here, it's that I think it could easily be more Latin/Mexican in its sound and a little more complex lyrically. The weakest track, "Don't Ever Give Up," is the most English-based track on the album and doesn't get much beyond the titular platitude. I'm not suggesting that the next Moona Luna album should go all Los Tigres del Norte on us and features narcocorridos, and their songs are more designed for preschoolers/kindergartners, but there were points when I felt like they were playing it a little safe. (Perhaps that's just a function of trying to write lyrics that need to work in two languages.)
The album is most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 6. You can hear some of the songs using the widget below. The album, officially released next week, is an Amazon exclusive.
I'm glad that Moona Luna's here, because I think they've got a chance to produce some really good songs and a little bit of cross-cultural understanding. In any language, Piñata Party is lots of fun. It's got bilingual pop-rock that stands up to repeated spins, and while the educational component isn't the focus, there's a fair amount of Spanish just waiting to be picked up. Yes, la vaca, I would like to dance! Recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided an advance copy for possible review -- a quote from me can be found on the album packaging.