My Favorite (and the Best?) Kids Music of 2017

This past year has been challenging in terms of writing about kids music here at the site.  There are a variety of reasons for that -- you can read this post for a few thoughts in that regard -- but the fact remains I haven't reviewed as many albums.  I'm still receiving -- and listening to -- a lot of kids music, but those thoughts haven't been translated into words on a screen.  It took me, sadly, 'til the end of April 2017 to write up thoughts on the best kids music of 2016, for an album award year that ended more than 6 months before.

As for this most recent year, I did once again submit my votes for the annual Fids and Kamily Awards I co-coordinate.  You can read all about the 2017 Fids and Kamily Award winners here, but I do feel compelled to list my own ballot in the same year the awards were announced.  (Small victories, amirite?)

Looking over this list, I'm once again struck by how my own personal favorites once again fell back on familiar and long-time names.  As a whole, this list is as noteworthy as any other year's top ten list of mine, but none of them were debuts.  (OK, that StevenSteven album is a debut, but a debut literally a decade in the making, so I'm not counting it.)  And I'd say the albums I was enthused by (this top 10, the honorable mention list that follows, and a handful of others relied more on familiar names.  As with last year, I'm not sure if that's a function of growing curmudgeonliness on my part or something else.  But I'm still out there looking and listening for the music that compels to put these mitts to keyboard and type out words of praise...

In any case, here are albums that I wholeheartedly endorse!

Made in L.A. cover

Made in L.A. cover

1. (tie) Made in L.A. - Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band:  Made in L.A. was the best album of Diaz's career, a love letter to a city he and Alisha Gaddis have made home, filled with all the pop hooks and humor we've come to expect from him, made with their Los Angeles-based friends.  

The Moonlights cover

The Moonlights cover

1. (tie) The Moonlights - The Moonlights: The Moonlights might be an unfamiliar name, but the two musicians who make up the band -- Dean Jones and Rachel Loshak -- are longstanding kindie notables, and their debut was suffused with the whimsy and ethereal good nature they've brought us previously in other musical incarnations.

3. (tie) Lead Belly, Baby! - Dan Zanes: In its freewheeling exuberance and joy, the closest Zanes has come to capturing the rolling party feeling of his early albums.

3. (tie) Born in the Deep Woods - Red Yarn: A step away from the hushed choir feeling of his previous "Deep Woods" albums, this southern-fried rock-tinged album was a stellar end to the trilogy.

5. Swing Set - Jazzy Ash: "The most joyful album of the year," I said back in August.  Still stand by that.

6. (tie) My Kinda Music - Walter Martin: Still not entirely sure this is really a "kids music" album, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's really, really good.

6. (tie) Foreverywhere - StevenSteven: The most-unusual sounding kids music album of the year.  Worth the more-than-ten-year wait?  Yeah.

8. (tie) Lemonade - Justin Roberts: Stripped-down arrangements, but the songwriting is as good as ever.

8. (tie) Songs for Little Ones - Charlie Hope: Classic kids' songs from one of kids' music's best voices.

8. (tie) Shooting Stars - Shine and the Moonbeams: I wish Shawana Kemp's second kids' music album got a little more coverage, as it's a fine mix of jazz, R&B, and funk with very kids-focused subjects.

In the past I've sometimes placed far more than 10 albums on this list.  When I reviewed more than 50 albums in a year, that made sense.  But since I've reviewed far fewer 2017 albums I'll limit this Honorable Mention list to 5 music albums (sorry, Billy Kelly's My First Comedy Album) that, depending on my mood, could easily have instead appeared in the list above.  (List organized alphabetically by album title.)  There are other good albums from 2017 that aren't in the list below, but I've got to end somewhere.

Between the Waves and the Cardoons - Pointed Man Band

Big Buncha Buddies - Keith Munslow & Bridget Brewer

Let All the Children Boogie - Various Artists

Spectacular Daydream - Mo Phillips

Trippin' Round the Mitten - Randy Kaplan