Best Kids Music of 2014: Top 10 Debuts

Continuing on with my look back at 2014 (or Oct. 1, 2013 though Sept. 30, 2014, or thereabouts), let's turn our attention to debuts.

The notion of "debut" is a difficult one, particularly in kids music, because one often hears music from artists who've been around for a long time recording music for adults who dip their toes into the kiddie pool.  Is that a debut?  My answer has tended to be "no."  So albums from artists like The Short Films and Sólrún Sumarliðadóttir, albums I clearly loved, weren't considered for this list, because I got no sense that those artists viewed those albums as the start of a career (or even career sideline) making music for families.  Same goes for albums by Luscious Jackson, Zee Avi, and MC Frontalot.

Or what do you do about artists like Dan Flannery and Steve Lee, who recorded kids' albums already with the Flannery Brothers and, er, Steve Lee?  Well, you disqualify albums recorded as Danny Lion and Yumzah which would've potentially made this list.  And Rainbow Beast?  I just didn't know what to do with that group of folks recording music written by a rotating set of kids.  So I omitted them.

Luckily, the list of ten albums below are still fine introductions to kids music from artists I've got a pretty good feeling might come back for round 2 -- at the very least they went to the trouble of creating a new band, right?  So here are my top 10 favorite debuts, listed alphabetically.



Bears and Lions - We're a Club in the Woods (review) - "Jangly, southern-fried guitar-pop songs about jumping out of airplanes, man's best friend, and PAN! CAKE! SWEEP! STAKES!  (Just listen to "Pancakes" all the way through, trust me.)"


Edie Carey & Sarah Sample - 'Til the Morning: Lullabies & Songs of Comfort (review) - " 'Til the Morning is an album of love songs, just like all lullaby albums should be, and beyond that it also has a feeling of things fitting just so, its songs of comfort also comfortable."


Django Jones - D is for Django (review) - "Songs like "Counterpoint," which manages to be about counterpoint the musical term and counterpoint the metaphorical concept while being mostly in counterpoint, demonstrate heart and humor and (natch) tight harmonies."


Jelly of the Month Club - Introducing… (review) - "Some songs like "Tell Someone" contain lessons of a sort, but that's a song that namechecks Cheryl Ladd and Chaka Khan, to name a few, so clearly there's a playfulness that cuts through any overt "Learn. This." approach."


Walter Martin - We're All Young Together (review) - "Whatever cool-points Martin may have lost by wadding into the kid's music world, the playful and sweet nature of this new album shows he doesn't care one bit. He feels very much at home."


Red Yarn - The Deep Woods (review) - '"Mr. Rabbit" has an almost desperate urgency while "The Fox," which brings together "The Fox," "Midnight Special," and "Go Tell Aunty Rhody," is absolutely gorgeous.  This is a folk revival, in all the many meanings of the word "revival."'


Andres Salguero - ¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andrés! (review) - "From "Los Colores" (a mellow bachata, popularized in the Dominican Republic) to "La Clave" (a percussion-driven -- of course -- Cuban/Puerto Rican salsa tune), Salguero samples Latin America's rich musical heritage."


Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots - Food! (review) - "But like a good bowl of mac'n'cheese, when done right, this style of kids music can be very satisfying.  The multi-instrumentalist Tatar plays in a number of bands throughout Chicago, and the level of production is excellent, with Tatar handling a lot of duties, but also bringing in his friends to fill out the sound."


Danny Weinkauf - No School Today (review) - "You don't have to be a They Might Be Giants fan to appreciate this album (though TMBG fans are most likely to go nuts for this), just a fan of nicely-crafted, occasionally goofy, kid-pop."


Whirlygigs - Greetings from Cloud 9 (review) - "Greetings from Cloud 9 definitely has a retro sound, but it's not burnt in amber, either.  For families looking for a mellower kindie sound reminiscent of those Taj Mahal records (or perhaps a little bit like fellow New Englander Alastair Moock), this Whirlygigs album is worth exploring."