Kids' music often resides in the realm of the real -- the concrete here and now. Music from Southern California's Todd McHatton doesn't follow that formula, especially on his latest disk, Galactic Champions of Joy.
Sure, there's a song about going to the pool -- "Tommy Had a Super Towel," which kicks off the album -- but it's much more about the towel and Tommy's imaginative (and perhaps literal) flights of fancy with it. One "Little Money Man" and "Say Hello to My Hippo," McHatton sings consecutive songs about flatulence; in the former, money appears when the title character "cuts the cheese." And on the final track, the surreal and genius (and totally justified hit) "I Think I'm a Bunny," McHatton takes the role of a monster who thinks he's, well, a bunny, while the young girl he duets with has to convince him that he is, yes, indeed, a purple monster. (I would be disappointed if the song doesn't turn into a picture book at some point.)
The music here is mostly swirling psychedelic power-pop that could have been released at any point in the past 35 years (say hello to the Beatles, or McHatton's hero Harry Nilsson, or Matthew Sweet). It can be gorgeous at times, and it's rarely simple. (This is Exhibit A in the argument against the notion that music for kids need only be bland.) Kids ages 5 through 9 will most appreciate the music (and lyrics) here. You can stream the 47-minute album here.
If parts of Galactic Champions of Joy feel a little bit like a daydream, that's entirely appropriate. The imaginative life of a child can be every bit as important as the concrete day-to-day details, maybe more so, so an album that dives deep into those ideas should be valued. Most families will enjoy at least part of it, but some families will probably find this to be one of their most beloved albums. Recommended.