Artist: Earthworm Ensemble
Album: Backyard Garden
Age Range: 4 through 8
Description: The Los Angeles group refines their alt-country indie-rock but keeps the eco-sensibility on their second album, the follow-up to their 2010 self-titled debut. As a person who has heard more kids music than 99.999% of parents (99.99999%?), I don't need to hear songs like "Compost" or "Reduce Reuse Recycle," which take a more instructional view of encouraging a greater awareness of the natural world (and our impact as a part of it), though I was amused by the Beach Boys homage midway through the latter track.
More subtle, but still vivid, are songs like the alt-country pop of "Ladybug" or the Beck-ian shuffle of "Bees Make Honey." Telling the story of the predator-prey relationship between moles and coyotes Rashomon-like in two songs -- the bluesy "Mole vs. Coyote" (from the mole's point of view) and the driving "Coyote vs. Mole" (the coyote, natch) -- is particularly innovative.
The 46-minute album features a large cast of guests joining the heart of the band with the resulting songs given a nice sound -- ramshackle when called for, but mostly well-polished. Listen to three songs from the album here. Lots of albums celebrating the natural world can feel stiff and didactic, but Backyard Garden avoids those traps for the most part. It's an album your family would conceivably listen even if it's not the week of Earth Day. Recommended.