Whoopty Whoop - Koo Koo Kanga Roo


Artist:  Koo Koo Kanga Roo

Album:  Whoopty Whoop

Age Range: 3 through 8

Description:  There's not many bands that can say they've toured with both Yo Gabba Gabba and Frank Turner, but the Twin Cities duo count themselves in that exclusive club.  On their new album Whoopty Whoop, Koo Koo Kanga Roo offer up high-energy, super-positive dance tracks about pizza, cake, and unibrows.  (Yeah, that's right - unibrows.)  They're jokey, but groovy, and in their best songs, like "Fanny Pack" and "I Like Cake," they somehow manage to make kids and adults smile while getting them both to move their booty from left to right (and if you don't think that kids should be shaking their booty from left to right, then I suggest that you don't listen to "Left 2 Right").  I wanted to like the album more than I did -- some of the songs overstay their welcome by about a minute -- but I can see how they'd form the basis for an awesome live show (which is how they've toured with YGG and Turner).

Even at 28 minutes in length, the shiny quirkiness may be too much for you, dear supervisor of kids, to take in one sitting.  (Stream it here for yourself.)  With an iDevice on shuffle or in a mix CD for your kids, it'll fit in nicely.  Recommended for the silliest kid in your life -- especially when they need to burn off some extra energy.

Acopladitos y la máquina de melodías (The Melody Machine) - Acopladitos



AlbumAcopladitos y la máquina de melodías (The Melody Machine)

Age Range: 2 through 6

Description:  Amidst the interest in Spanish-language kindie music over the past 2-3 years there's been a greater level of diversity in such music.  From the Spanish indie-pop of minimusica, to the retro-pop of Moona Luna, to Lucky Diaz's melding of indie-rock and Tejano on his Spanish language disks, there's a variety of sounds that go way beyond the more traditional sounds.  The New York based classes from Acopladitos (Angélica Negrón, Noraliz Ruiz and Tatiana Arocha) are part of that trend.  Their first disk included songs with simple lyrics about letters and counting and the like, attached to bleeps and bloops and nifty electronic melodies.  Their latest album is, well, an instrumental album.  So that part about "Spanish language" doesn't apply here, and, really, this sounds as much like Elska or Skyjafletta, as it does those modern Spanish popsters listed above, and certainly more than Jose-Luis Orozco, for example.  The melodies are still fun (I particularly like "La banda en marcha," suitable for marches around the living room), and no Spanish is necessary.

The 24-minute album will appeal most to kids ages 2 through 7.  You can stream the entire album here.  These tracks will fit great slotted into your afternoon preschool dance parties.  It might not be Spanish kindie, but it is fun.  Recommended.

We're All Young Together - Walter Martin


Artist: Walter Martin

Album: We're All Young Together

Age Range: 4 through 10

Description: I said almost everything I'd care to say about the debut solo album from The Walkmen's Walter Martin in my NPR review of the album.  It's nearly a 180 from his work with the Walkmen in that it's goofy, heartfelt, and sometimes swoony.  There's such a sweetness to this album, it's hard not to smile at some point while listening.  Highly recommended.

An Adventurous Day - Lolly & YoYo

Artist:  Lolly and YoYo

Album:  An Adventurous Day

Age Range: 3 through 7

Description:  Unlike America, whose kindie streams tend to have strong rock or folk influences, sounding a lot like music made for adults, but with kid-friendly subject matter, kids music in modern-day Canada has a much larger Raffi strain.  By that I mean many albums are sealed away in a gentle pop/folk world that does not recognize the influence of gaming consoles, distortion pedals, and irony.

For some readers, that's going to sound perfect for their families, while others will find it perfectly annoying.  This 43-minute album from the Pennsylvania duo could totally have been recorded in Canada, it could have been recorded 35 years ago (albeit sounding a little more sonically punched-up).  Don't be misled by the emphasis on fitness and health on the website or the album packaging -- while the songs definitely encourage that, your kids will be just fine playing LEGOs while listening.  And songs like the fiddle-based "Row Down the River," the samba "Snowflakes," and "Honey Bee" wouldn't sound out of place on those Elizabeth Mitchell albums on your shelf.

As I've suggested above, some readers will find this album not the right fit for their families (though I think those songs I've listed above would appeal to just about everyone).  But if your family loves the comfort from those albums in the Raffi family tree, you will find An Adventurous Day an excellent example of the form.  Recommended.

Hello, Hello, Hello! - The Itty Biddies


Artist: The Itty Biddies

Album: Hello, Hello, Hello!

Age Range: 2 to 6

Description: An offshoot of NYC-based pop-cabaret trio The Lascivious Biddies, the Itty Biddies chart a very non-lascivious musical path on their debut EP.  The trio -- Deidre Rodman Struck, Lee Ann Westover, and frequent Dan Zanes collaborator Saskia Lane -- sing sunny songs with bright harmonies.  The songs were originally commissioned by Carnegie Hall's CarnegieKids performing series in New York, and songs like "Safari" and "Jump Around" sound like they were specifically written to encourage interaction.  While those songs are well-done, from a non-interactive distance, my favorite tracks are the 2 bonus tracks, "Texas Girl" and "Neighbor (The Mister Rogers Song)," which are free of any need except to entertain. 

You can listen to the 21-minute album here (it's the only place to get the 2 bonus tracks).  The album is a promising start for this Biddies' side project and if it isn't quite what I'd hoped for given the band's background, maybe that's just me sitting on the other side of the country without a Biddies show to take the kiddo to.

Songs from a Journey with a Parrot - Various Artists (The Secret Mountain)


Artist: Various Artists (The Secret Mountain)

Album: Songs from a Journey with a Parrot: Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes from Brazil and Portugal

Age Range: 0 through 6

Description: The latest book/CD combo from Canadian publisher The Secret Mountain heads to a couple Portuguese-speaking countries for a selection of lullabies and nursery rhymes.  The selection (originally published in France in 2003) is well-produced and diverse in its musical stylings (the songs were collected by Magdalene Lerasle).  Unlike the Putumayo disks, which are typically compilations of previously-recorded material from a wide range of artists, each Secret Mountain production tends to keep itself to a narrower range of artists.  Here arranger Paul Mindy leads a handful of vocalists.  The adults may want to turn to the detailed liner notes (lyrics, translated lyrics, song backgrounds, credits) in the back while the kids will probably stick with the front half and Aurelia Fronty's vibrant illustrations and brief lyrical snippets.

The 45-minute album is a lot more uptempo than the subtitle "Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes" might suggest, so if you're looking for a lullaby album, look elsewhere.  But for a playful collection of Latin melodies (and non-Spanish-language ones at that), this is an excellent introduction.  Recommended.

Wooden Spoon! - Marc Imboden


Artist: Marc Imboden

Album: Wooden Spoon!

Age Range: 3 through 8

Description: The first half of this 2011 album features the Indiana-based Imboden leading his band through folk/roots-rock-y renditions of classic kids' songs -- "This Old Man," "Wheels on the Bus," and the like.  They're well-done, but it's not exactly a new approach to the songs.  I was more interested in the second half of the album, which features some originals, like "I Like To Sing This Song" (6 minutes long, but flies by in what seems like half the time) and the title track.  Half of the proceeds of the album (listen to the whole thing here) will be distributed to Reece's Rainbow, which helps orphans with special needs find families. A solid album, even those familiar songs I'm apparently less enthused by, but if Imboden wants to record a whole album of originals, I'd be very eager to hear them.  Recommended.

I Will Go Into the Day - Caroline Herring


ArtistCaroline Herring

AlbumI Will Go Into the Day

Age Range: 4 through 8

Description: The story of how Herring went from Kickstarting two albums based on children's literature to releasing this album of new material and a couple folk song covers is a long and, for Herring, very frustrating one.  (Short version: children's book authors and publishers can be very possessive of their creations.)

But that doesn't mean the end result is frustrating to listen to.  Songs like "Make It Yourself," with a kids' chorus, and "Today," are exuberant, while some tracks like "Music of the Mountains" are more thoughtful.  (You can listen to the album over at Bandcamp.)  A solid 32-minute album of folk music for families, with a theme of exploring the world near and far gently but firmly threading its way through the entire 11-song set.  Fans of her previous album for families, The Little House Songs, will find her strong voice and warm arrangements in fine form.  Recommended.