I think we can agree that England -- the entire United Kingdom, actually -- has not carried its weight in the kids music new wave. Few artists have attracted any attention here in the States, and even those artists would admit that the independent family music scene is as small there as it is large on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Into the breach comes the Crayonettes' Playing Out (Songs for Children and Robots). The Crayonettes are a new project from singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, who actually has a little experience in the genre having contributed a track to the Colours Are Brighter 2006 kid-comp, and Anna Spencer, formerly of the punk band Delicate Vomit. Although the album's overall sound won't be too surprising to regular readers of this website, used to hearing all sorts of songs for all sorts of kids, its folk-electronica music and some out-of-left-field lyrics aren't entirely typical of the more polished kindie sound.
"Robots in the Rain" leads off the album with drum tracks, bleeps and bloops, and a mellow song about rusty robots. "Disco Teeth" channels "Odelay"-era Beck to offer this pearl of wisdom: "Toothpaste / Toothpaste is great / 'Cause it cleans your teeth / Disco bright." My favorite tracks are "Emergency," which effectively uses the whah-whah-whah of emergency vehicles as a musical motif and "Illegal," which combines a little trip-hop with a snaky violin and various prohibitions ("Don't pour lemonade in the fishbowl / Don't take the fish for a walk"). I also liked "Spooky Way Home," which is just scary enough for a 4-year-old at Halloween. Having said that, some of the songs don't sound polished enough and sometimes the lyrics are a little too precious (I'm thinking here about "Sweet on the Floor," about not eating, well sweets on the floor).
The 30-minute album will be most appreciated by kids ages 2 through 6. You can listen to samples at the UK iTunes page for the album, or listen to "Disco Teeth" here, "Robots in the Rain" at the One Little Indian Facebook page, and an outtake for the price of an e-mail. The Crayonettes' mere existence shows there's hope yet for the UK family music scene. While it's not a perfect disk by any means, Playing Out (Songs for Children and Robots) has a number of tracks suitable for dancing, lounging or being creative to. Recommended for families who are fans of Kimya Dawson's Alphabutt and (to a lesser extent) Saint Etienne's Up the Wooden Hills EP, and for any family willing to be more adventurous in their musical selections.