Like their fellow Seattle kindie musicians Recess Monkey and Caspar Babypants, The Not-Its have settled into a nice groove, delivering a new album consistently every 12 to 18 months since bounding onto the kindie scene in 2009.
And like Recess Monkey before them, the pop-punk quintet has begun to hone their songwriting skills so that by the time they got around to releasing Raise Your Hand, their fifth album, last summer, listeners could feel confident of hearing a nice little playlist of pop nuggets inside.
In that regard, the album does not disappoint. "When I Fell (The Scab Song)" is power-pop punk at its finest, with the next track "Motorcycle Mom" just as ear-wormy. And "Haircut" has that appropriately '80s hair-metal sheen for a song about a kid who just wants his (or her) hair to remain wild and untamed. Even the songs that I was just fine with, a song "Funniest Cat Video" or the title track, inevitably have some sort of musical hook or distinctive production that make the song worth hearing.
As with many of their previous albums, there's a blend of earnestness and sophisticated attitude to the song lyrics -- "Funniest Cat Video" is about the narrator trying (and failing) to make a funny cat video for YouTube, while "Nose In a Book" is all about how awesome reading is. The references in "Hey 80's" will go straight over the 6-year-old heads (and straight into their 38-year-old parents' heads), while songs like "Bee's Knees" and "Echo" tackle their subjects (bees' environmental fragility and love equality, respectively) with directness. As an older listener, I wouldn't mind hearing the band tackle some of their more "serious" subjects with a little more of the irreverent attitude they display on their less serious subjects, but that could be the preference of the adult who has heard far more kids music than the vast majority of parents ever will.
Raise Your Hand is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 9. And as has become expected with Not-Its albums, the design, from Don Clark, is once again top-notch. I realize that in the age of Spotify, album designers are probably an endangered species, even in the kids music world, but the CD ain't quite dead yet. You can stream the entire album here.
As I hope I've made clear, Raise Your Hand is a solid collection of songs, radio-ready pop candy for the first-grade masses. Families who are longtime fans won't be disappointed and while I might recommend its predecessor KidQuake! as the best introduction to the band, that's just personal preference as opposed to any demonstrative difference in quality. The quality continues. Definitely recommended.
Note: I received a copy of the album for possible review.