A couple years ago, I put together a review of seven lullaby albums. It's time to do another review of lullaby albums that have crossed my desk in the past six to nine months and, what do you know?, there are seven more. Must be a lucky number.
The most striking lullaby album in this collection is Until the Light of Morning, the recently released album from New Yorker (via London) Essie Jain. As Jain notes in her liner notes, the 35-minute album is "designed to unwind itself as it goes along, as the music becomes softer and more relaxed, eventually becoming as instrumental as the heart beat." It's definitely the best-constructed lullaby album here, perfected for moving from evening play time to sleep time. The music and lovely packaging make it a good choice for gifting to the new parent... or maybe even your own family. (Listen to a couple songs here and 3 more from a live Daytrotter session.) Definitely recommended.
Sing Me To Sleep from American Laundromat Records is the latest in the time-honored tradition of getting indie rock artists to record music for kids. The For the Kids series can cross "lullaby disk" off their to-do list, because this fits the bill. The indie artists here such as Stars, Dean & Britta, and Tanya Donelly cover others' songs for the album. As you might expect given the compilation nature of the disk, the definition of "lullaby" gets stretched considerably. I love The Leisure Society's take on "Inchworm," but it gets far too peppy to be a lullaby, and I'm not sure "Little Boxes" is really a lullaby in any sense of the word. (Also, can we please put a five-year moratorium on covers of "Pure Imagination" and "Rainbow Connection," both covered here and a billion other kid-related comps?) Far better are Dala's take on "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and Telekinesis' version of "Can't Get It Out of My Head," along with a number of other tracks.
There's a limited edition with tracks from Julie Peel and the Coctails, and more -- the tracks from those artists in particular definitely aren't throwaway tracks and are probably worth the extra cash, along with a gorgeous instrumental version of "The Sound of Silence" from the Abbasi Brothers. Peter Broderick's "You Are My Sunshine" may induce nightmares, though, and count me among those wondering why Say Hi covered the Violent Femmes track "Kiss Off" (it does make for interesting listening, though, I'll give it that much). Proceeds from the album will go to The Valerie Fund, which provides support for the comprehensive health care of children with cancer and blood disorders. (Listen to songs from the album here.) It might not be a perfect album, but you can certainly find a good 30 minutes of excellent lullabies. Recommended.
I think these two albums are the cream of this particular crop of disks, but there are 5 more after the jump -- you're bound to find at least one of these that appeal to you...
Australia's Mudcakes weigh in with Songs For Little Sleepyheads, the album most likely to sound like the album you or I might make. OK, you probably wouldn't have simple accompaniment on ukulele or lap steel guitar. (Definitely not the lap steel guitar.) But the songs -- "I See the Moon," "Twinkle Twinkle," or "Froggy Goodnight" (a reworking of "Goodnight Irene") -- are the type you might have in your repertoire. There are some originals worked into the mix as well, and there's a nice winding down effect. (Listen to songs from the 38-minute album here.) Recommended.
New York-based trio Tres Leches are a one-man, er, three-woman Putumayo crew on their debut 2009 disk Songs, Chants & Lullabies for All Our Relations. The opener African song "Samina" is bright uptempo, but the rest is mostly cooldown music, with harmonies the focus. High points include a sweet and indirect "Itsy Bitsy Spider," the traditional Afro-Yoruban song "Yemaya," and the original "Coo Coo." By the end of the 31-minute album, it's mostly a capella, so it's a good thing the voices and harmonies sound so lovely. (Listen to the album at the band's website above.) Recommended.
Blue Sky Lullaby is from New York's Hammond Sisters, who, being Amy Koza and Davita Robinson, are neither named "Hammond" nor are sisters. It's a collection of original '30s-inspired folk ballads written by the duo that are more quiet-time songs than lullabies. Which isn't to say some of them aren't gorgeous, just that you may find that the songs work better near the front of your personally-crafted lullaby mix CD rather than the sleep end. The 43-minute album is a benefit for Mapendo International, which protects and cares for at-risk refugees in Africa. Fans of Hem I think will particularly enjoy this album, as will folks looking for something to listen to a cold winter afternoon. (Listen to a couple tracks, including the lovely "Baby Mine," here.) Recommended.
Jazz singer Maci Miller's Butterfly Moon is the album for those who like their lullaby albums to have a bit of shine to them. It's partially a benefit for The Mercy Centre, a Bangkok organization working with kids and families. Save for the title track, these are all covers, some of popular songs ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "It's a Small World,"), some more traditional (Brahms' "Lullaby," "Down In The Valley"). It's a bit too slickly produced for my own lullaby tastes, a little too "tinkly." But it's a lot less schmaltzy and restrained than other stuff in the same vein and mostly remembers the notionally lullaby nature of the disk, which sometimes trained singers forget. I don't think fans of Sing Me To Sleep or Essie Jain will necessarily like this, but if for some reason those albums don't speak to you or your kids, this one might. (Listen to 3 tracks here or clips here.)
Finally, Bedtime with the Beatles, recorded by pop-rocker Jason Falkner and released in 2001 on the Sony Wonder. Long before Rockabye Baby came along was this album, in which Falkner goes all Mantovani on us and creates smooth (and synthesized) orchestral versions of 11 Beatles classics. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about these versions, either in concept or compared to the originals, but they're not too tinkly and would be a pleasant diversion while trying to soothe a baby at 2 AM. Just don't expect it to replace your actual Beatles albums.
[With the exception of the Jason Falkner album, I received copies of all albums discussed here for possible review.]