Don't Forget: Randy Kaplan in Concert

Uh, like the title says -- Randy Kaplan in concert. Don't forget about it -- Saturday, Dec. 27th at 2 PM at Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix. (7th Ave and Glendale -- soooo central.) Tickets are just $3 per person, $10 per family. It will be lots of fun -- hope to see you there.

For Those Of You Driving Over The River and/or Through the Woods

Given that a lot of folks are gonna be driving around this week, the folks at CafeMom asked me a few questions about kids music and cars. Worth a read, if only because the comments totally validate my non-answer regarding adult music kids will love. There's a reason why I don't really get into that type of discussion here, and that's because one person's reggae is another person's country is another person's Type O Negative. I love Spoon, but not everybody else does. Play stuff you like -- not all the time, of course -- but don't completely surrender your car's CD changer to the little one, either...

My Favorite Kids and Family Albums of 2008

It's that time of year once more, time for me to give you my rundown of my favorite kids and family albums from 2008. As always, I use the adjective "favorite" deliberately, as opposed to "best," because taste is subjective. It's why I came up with the idea for the Fids and Kamily Awards -- because I think the opinions of 20 or so attentive listeners are worth more than the opinion of just 1 listener. (I should also note here that "2008" really means Nov. 1, 2007 through Oct. 31, 2008, which means I've already reviewed a few CDs late this year that don't make this list but have a good shot at next year's.) But for those of you who are interested in what particularly tickled the fancies of this one attentive listener and our family this year, read on... HereComeThe123s.jpgSnacktime.jpgLetsGoEverywhere.jpg 1. (tie) They Might Be Giants - Here Come the 123s 1. (tie) Barenaked Ladies - Snacktime 1. (tie) Medeski, Martin & Wood - Let's Go Everywhere Yes, my top 3 albums of the year are from artists who usually make music for adults. OK, perhaps They Might Be Giants have been doing this for the kids long enough to be counted as a full-fledged member in the kids musician union, but the Barenaked Ladies and Medeski, Martin & Wood put forth adventurous and fun albums for the family their first time out of the gate. TMBG rounded up a bunch of excellent videos to go with their occasionally educational songs. Barenaked Ladies applied their their pop-folk humor to a younger age set; to no one's surprise, it worked. Medeski, Martin & Wood's album was playful and totally accessible (psst, don't tell anyone it's jazz or they might not want to listen). Fabulous music all around -- 2008's best.

Review Basket: Another Bundle of Christmas / Holiday CDs

Well, it's that time of year when folks all across this great Interwebs of ours put together listings of Christmas and other holiday-themed lists. And I'm no different. I haven't bothered to put together a "most essential" list of holiday albums -- rather, here's a list of some CDs that have crossed my desk over the past year... If you need to see last year's list, go here. You can also read a 2006 essay here. (Yes, that Sufjan Stevens collection is still getting lots of airplay 'round these parts...) HolidaysGoneCrazy.jpgLet's start out with the clear winner of the kids' music holiday competition -- Wee Hairy Beasties' Holidays Gone Crazy. This isn't really a winter holiday collection as it contains a fair number of tracks from their Creepy Lullabies Halloween 7", but it does have a few Christmas tracks -- the why-didn't-I-think-of-that "Dinosaur Christmas" (as gloriously jolly and dorky as you'd expect) and its predecessor "The Tail of the Night Before..." But it's also got non-holiday-themed tracks like "Here Comes My Shadow" and "Bury Me in the Sand." Filled with the Beasties' trademark Americana (washboards, harmonicas, kazoos, and lap steel guitar, for example) and 5th-grade-humor (what do you expect from an album with a "Yellow Snow PSA"?), it's definitely not for the reverential times. You can get it in a physical format a lot of places, but at this late date, why not get it electronically here? But even if you get it in February, you might just listen all year long.

Review: Beautiful World - Dog on Fleas

BeautifulWorldlowres.jpgWell, there's certainly no flies on New York's Dog on Fleas. Flies on fleas? Huh? What I mean by that is that their last album, When I Get Little, was a fabulous little piece of sun-kissed Dan Zanes-ian roots-pop, and it would have been very easy for the band to turn out another collection of free-range music. But for whatever reason (including the departure of a couple band members to other things), the band has taken a somewhat different approach on this new CD. There's a lot of experimentation here, even more than you'd expect from a Dog on Fleas disk. Some of it sounds great -- "I Love Your Accent" is little more than the song title sung in falsetto and people reciting where they're from (from around the world), but it's lots of fun and very global in its worldview, obviously. "Unbirthday" is a raucous, occasionally distorted celebration of each person's other 364 days of the year. I was much less enthused by "Star Tonight" and "Do You Wanna Know My New Dance Step?," two funky tunes that didn't have that dancing spark Fleas tunes often have. My general feeling is that the second half of the album is less "experimental" and will be more familiar to long-time listeners. There are a number of guest musicians on the album. Lorette Velvette takes lead vocals on the storytelling "Lima Bean," with Uncle Rock providing backup assistance. Frances England joins with Pia Ruissi-Besates on the gorgeous and mellow album-closer "Babies." (The song would have fit perfectly on the band's Dean Jones' lullaby(-ish) album Napper's Delight.) As with most Dog on Fleas tunes, the 35-minute album doesn't quite have an age range, but let's say it's most appropriate for ages 3 through 9. You can hear samples at the album's CD Baby page. Beautiful World isn't as fun as their last album, When I Get Little, and if you're new to the band, I'd recommend starting there first. And if you're a huge fan of that CD, it may take a while to get used to the new sounds here. But there are a lot of good songs and the lyrics are filled with love for the world and its inhabitants. There are many worse ways to spend 35 minutes dancing with your kids. Recommended.