Listen To This: "Wesley Werewolf" - Skelly and the Punkins

Halloween is just a month away, so it's time to start rolling out kindie's 2011 Halloween tunes. This is a particularly nice cut from a group called "Skelly and the Punkins." The group, OK, it's a one-off track from the folks at Cordovan Music, but don't let that put you off. Your kids will pogo. You can grab the tunes at Amazon's UK site (!?) or on eMusic get the mp3 pretty much anywhere digital tunes are sold. Or just hit YouTube repeatedly. Skelly and the Punkins - "Wesley Werewolf" [YouTube]

Review Four-fer: Hullabaloo, Alphabeticians, Mister G, Monty Harper

As you would probably expect, I get many more disks than I could possibly have time to review (unless somebody decides that they want to nominate me for a MacArthur Fellowship). Given my time constraints, there are many reasons why I don't review an album, including it stinks or I can't figure out what to say about it. But there are a number of decent albums with a particular point of view that don't get reviewed in a timely manner just because life goes on. Here, then, are four albums, each with a different approach to the genre -- your family is likely to dig at least one of them. RoadTripHullabaloo.jpgSan Diego-area musician Steve Denyes is a prolific songwriter (see here for a side project of mine he originated), cranking out a Hullabaloo album at least once a year. His latest record Road Trip tackles the theme of, well, car travel (natch), with thirteen tracks covering the experience (truckers' horns, traffic jams, the unfortunate demise of bugs on the windshield). The opening title track is a fun country-rocker, while the rest of songs take a slightly mellower, folkier, Johnny Cash-ier approach. (You can stream the album here.) The album is most appropriate for kids ages 2 through 7. In one sitting, the songs begin to run together, but there are a lot of songs here that would work well in a mixtape for your next trip. Recommended for: your next trip to Grandma's house, your afternoon errand-run. AlphabeticiansRock.jpgMoving up the coast to Portland we find The Alphabeticians, a duo consisting of Eric Levine and Jeff Inlay, AKA Mr. E. and Mr. Hoo, which gives you a little sense of the goofiness that this duo trades in on their formal debut Rock. A little bit of the Pixies and R.E.M. (literally, in the case of the song "Eric Saw Peter Buck's Girlfriend and Then He Saw Peter Buck"), with a healthy dose of They Might Be Giants, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and Schoolhouse Rock mixed in. It could use a little more polish production-wise in spots, but there are some great songs in there (I recommend giving "Metaphor" and "Monkey on my Shirt" a spin at the album's streaming page.) The album's most appropriate for kids ages 3 through 8. Recommended for: the sassy younger kids on TV sitcoms, families who have at least one TMBG album (kids' or adult's) around the house, kids who want lots of alphabet practice.

Share: "Rollin' Baby" - Elizabeth Mitchell

YAMF1-Laura-Levine.jpgAhhhh... nothing like a little Elizabeth Mitchell track to take the edge off a cool, crisp fall morning. (What's that? I live in the Arizona desert and "cool, crisp" means about 75 degrees? Shhhh!) The track is called "Rollin' Baby," and it's a cover of a track from Mitchell's sister-in-law Anna Padgett, who records as The Good Ms. Padgett. "Rollin' Baby" will remind you a little bit of "Who's My Pretty Baby?," very simple and sweet. Even better, it's free for the price of an e-mail (use the widget below). Padgett, incidentally, has a new album, The Good Ms. Padgett Sings The Little Red Hen and Other Stories, this fall. Her first album had a vibe similar to that of her sister-in-law's, and I'm guessing her second will as well...
(Photo credit: Laura Levine)

NPR Reviews Dan Zanes' Little Nut Tree

LittleNutTree_lowres.jpgOK, not, like the entire network of member stations. Pretty much just me. Well -- I had some help. Besides Dan Zanes, the review also features the Sierra Leone Refugee Allstars, Andrew Bird, and Sharon Jones. (That's pretty darn good as help goes.) So check out the review, which will air on All Things Considered at 5:20 / 7:20 / 9:20 PM East Coast time tonight.

Monday Morning Smile: Istanbul (Not Constantinople) - They Might Be Giants

When my daughter was younger, on most nights I would sing her a song or two before putting her to bed. But as Miss Mary Mack grew older, she eventually decided she didn't want me to do that every night. Once a week or so, however, I'll still sing her a goodnight song. Until recently, it has been something from my repertoire of lullaby songs -- "Hush Little Baby," perhaps, or Brahms' Lullaby (the "doo doo doo" song, with other silly sounds as well). But for some reason -- Miss Mary Mack has been very vague as to her motivation -- in recent weeks she has requested "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," a Jimmy Kennedy/Nat Simon song from the early 1950s whose prominence in my brain is 100% due to They Might Be Giants, who recorded a version for their essential 1990 album Flood. So now I bring up the TMBG version, with the weird vocalizations and instrumental parts, in my mind using memories of an album twenty years old and am thankful I still get to sing lullabies for my daughter. They Might Be Giants - "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - [YouTube]

Itty-Bitty Review: Tag, You're It! - The Not-Its!

TagYoureIt.jpgI've always thought of punk music as being pretty anti-authoritarian, which is why I've been surprised to see a lot of kids punk bands be, well, not anti-authoritarian in their music. I suppose it's not that surprising -- how could you sell your music to the very authoritarians (the parents) you're singing against? But I wonder how many parents see the punk outfits and hear the crunchy guitars and think, "not for my family." Pity. The Seattle band The Not-Its! have always been on the "pop" end of the pop-punk spectrum. Rather than take a full-on punk approach, they sneak themselves into homes and audiences with snazzy color-coordinated tutus and ties and cartoon-friendly album covers. This summer they released their third album Tag, You're It! filled with songs about such dangerous topics as freeze tag ("Freeze Tag"), favorite subjects in school ("Mathematics"), and playing air guitar ("I Love Food"). I'm beginning to suspect that the Kindiependent bands have access to some eternal fountain of hooks that they parcel out to themselves, because this album's filled with catchy choruses and nifty melodic lines. (Lead singer Sarah Shannon's voice and the tight musical backup don't hurt in delivering the hooks.) If there's a downside to the album, it's that it plays it too safe at points -- saying "Gotta Keep on Tryin'" is a lot better than most songs that tackle the topic of perserverance, for example, isn't saying much. I tended to prefer the slightly off-kilter tracks: the parent-child argument of "Carry Me," for example, will ring a bell with many parents who've gone, well, anywhere, ever with their kids. (And "Puppy Dog" nicks the bassline from Blondie's "Heart of Glass" to call out a poorly trained canine.) The 31-minute album is most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 8. You can hear some of the tracks from the album at the band's music page. Tag, You're It! is a short, sharp blast of pop-punk goodness through and through. Safe enough for the kiddoes and the grandparents, regardless of whether they're into Joey Ramone or Vic Damone. Recommended.