Review: See! - Holly Throsby

See.jpgOne thing that's been striking to me is the relative absence of an independent Australian family music scene, at least viewed from the American vantage point. One might think that the tremendous success of four nice blokes in bright t-shirts might have spurred a lot of imitators and counter-revolutionaries, but that doesn't seem to have been the case. In fact, you can argue that the Wiggles have had a lot more influence on the American kids music scene, either through imitators (the Fresh Beat Band), people headed in the opposite direction (many of the artists on this site), and folks with their feet firmly planted in both camps (Yo Gabba Gabba!).

So I'm glad to see that Australian indie-folk musician Holly Throsby has peeked her head into the relatively small Australian scene and offered up See!, which is one of most captivating family music albums I've heard this year. Recorded at an old church south of Sydney, the album kicks off with the sound of a horn heard off the coast as the intro to "Putt Putt," a gentle tune about going out into the ocean with a small motor boat. From there, the album moves to "Fish and Mice," which starts out with what sounds like a Casio drum keyboard and eventually leads to an infectious sing-along chorus with a bunch of kids singing interjections ("Fish!"... "Bike!"). This looseness in musical production is carried on throughout the album.

It's all very impressionistic -- moods and feelings and lyrics that aren't totally straightforward narratively, as on the winning Americana-by-way-of-New-South-Wales "Diamonds Are So Shiny" ("I have a deck of cards / And I'm in love with the two of hearts / I dug a hole with the ace of spades / I found a bone and some clay / And an old golf ball / That I hit around with my four of clubs.") She even includes an 11-second "Drum Lesson" that simply introduces a handful of drum sounds. (Also, I'm happy that on "What Turns?," Throsby finally writes a second song for a kookaburra, who, frankly, was probably getting tired of sitting that that old gum tree.)

The 28-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 8. Right now it's only available as an import or from here -- either way, it'll cost ya about $30 Stateside, so I'd definitely recommend checking out 3 of the tracks here, as well as "The Seasons" here.

But See! might very well be worth the $30. It's a combination of Frances England's dreamy songwriting and Elizabeth Mitchell's appropriation of sounds and melodies from everyday life (with a little bit of Stephen Cohen's Here Comes the Band atmospheric tone thrown in). It is described as "experimental," though to American kindie ears it won't sound experimental at all. It is merely delightful in big ways and small. Definitely recommended.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this album for possible review.