Review: "Outside Voices" - The Pop Ups

OutsideVoices.jpgI'd like to think I have a good record of introducing new artists worth following to the world, but I can't be first all the time. As you'd expect, Bill Childs gets his fair share of disks, and last week in his typical understated way, he made an aside in an unrelated e-mail, saying, "I like that Pop Ups CD." I hadn't heard it, and so worked to change that ASAP and...

This is nothing less than the kids music debut of the year, an inventive mix of beats and melodies that will tickle the eardrums of young and old alike.

It's called Outside Voices, and it's from the Brooklyn duo The Pop Ups. The Pop Ups consist of kids music teacher Jacob Stein and Jason Rabinowitz, frontman for the indie-pop band The Bloodsugars and co-writer/producer of three Little Maestros disks on Kid Rhino, so they've come into this project with both a kids music background and no small amount of experience recording music for adult ears.

The opening track, "Outside Inside," is as striking an opening track as I've heard on a kids album in some time. A guitar strum, a piano, and then a soaring vocal accented by an insistent drum track, all in the purpose of describing the difference between outside voices and inside voices. The next track "Subway Train" is an '80s-tinged electronica-assisted tale of alliterative animals on the New York subway system. The reggae-style "Balloon" leads to "Apes in Capes," which must be a Postal Service hidden track about using basic geometric patterns to draw objects. The midtempo rocket "F & G" is the greatest song about a letter pair since They Might Be Giants' "QU."

And so on. The second five tracks are slightly less awesome than the first five, though I have no small fondness for the horn-assisted garage-rocker "Pasta" (I think you can guess what that one's about). And "Up and Down" is pretty much a Sesame Street video begging to be made.

The 37-minute album is pitched toward kids aged 3 through 7, though I can definitely see this being one of those albums that parents occasionally sneak into the car's CD player after dropping the kids off somewhere. For the moment, you can just purchase the album via download. It's now available in both mp3 and tangible CD format. Feel free to stream the whole album below. (Um, that's an order, actually.)

Can you tell I'm over the moon about this album? Good. Because it's seriously great; it's this year's out-of-nowhere surprise equivalent to John and Mark's Children's Record. Totally for kids, with no compromises for the adults listening in, this album is winning in every way. I may not be the very first to tell you about Outside Voices, but I can guarantee you that I will not be the last. Highly recommended.

<a href="">Outside Inside by The Pop Ups</a>

Note: The band provided a copy of the album for possible review.