Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bedtime Stories for Pirates - Captain Bogg and Salty

Captain Bogg and Crew's first album, 10 years old now, containing, well, pirate music. A little bit Pogues-y, a little bit gypsy-ish - just imagine for yourself the kind of music pirates might sing, and you're probably imagining it right. It's got a little bit more musical theatre about it than the other albums ("I'm a singing pirate" its quite Gilbert & Sullivan-ish) and actually sounds quite like a first album, but although it doesn't have as many danceable tunes as "Pegleg Tango" it's just as good in its own way. The kids dig it as much as I do and "SCUUUUUUUURVYYYYY!" has become a great catchphrase in the house.

Click here to buy its successor, "Pegleg Tango" on www.kids-tunes.com

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Me! - Charlie Hope

A collection of quiet-but-quietly-fun acoustic-y songs from woman with a really gorgeous voice. It's split about 50-50 between well-known songs (like Raffi's "Mr. Sun" and "10 in the bed") and originals. Of the covers I really love "Zoom zoom", which reminds me a little bit of Woody Guthrie's children's stuff in that it sounds like she's been recorded singing directly to one of her own children (complete with WHSSSSSSHHHHHCCCH vocal sound effects indicating the rocket blasting off). The originals are really good too - she knows how to put together a tune, and her lyrics are simple but good (again a little like Raffi).

My kids seldom express an interest in gentle music, but a lot of this is lively in its own subtle way, evidenced by Heather dancing to it all around the kitchen on Saturday. It dips a little at the end (by which I mean it gets a bit too quiet to really hold our attentions), but even so it's a good album and well worth checking out.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tiny cool - Princess Katie and Racer Steve

Princess Katie and Racer Steve are a husband and wife duo and one of the new breed of American kindie bands, going for both girl and boy demographics judging by their name. The first song - a cool and very danceable salsa number with an ace brass section - is great, but after that it kinda goes astray. The lyrics tend to be from a grown-up rather than a kid's perspective, and can be quite cringey in places ("I'm on the stage rockin out/So I can see all the kids and I believe") and although they have some nice melodic turns here and there (like the chorus of "Shy") the parts never really add up to songs that grab me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Here Comes Science - They Might Be Giants

The latest from TMBG, this one attempts to explain some fairly complex scientific ideas to kids like photosynthesis, elements, cells and The Scientific Method itself in language kids will understand. We're a very science-y household - me and Niamh met when studying science in university, and she's an actual working Scientist with a Ph.D. and everything (ooooo!) - so we were excited about this one. From my own perspective I was hoping it'd help stop me tripping myself up during my regular lengthy explanations of Everything to Isabelle, in response to questions like "Everything has something else inside it, doesn't it?".

The music, as you'd expect, is top notch quirky indie rock - maybe not quite as consistent as "Here Come the 123s", but the best ones are (I think) better. Not all the songs are actually educational - like Roy G. Biv, which it just a super-catchy excuse to personify the colours of the rainbow and make up some nonsense about him. Of the ones that are some that are pretty simple content-wise, like a list of the names of the planets, which are perfect for Isabelle, and while the more complicated stuff won't provide instant enlightenment to a 5-year old, the songs do provide great jumping-off points for talking about this stuff.

Like the other TBMG kids records there's a DVD of videos of the songs as part of the package. The videos on this are much slicker than "Here come the 123s", including "Electric car" which is one of the most gorgeous videos I've ever seen. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Wizard of Oz Soundtrack

Isabelle went through a mad Wizard of Oz stage when she was 3. We played countless games of Dorothy and Scarecrow, and she declared to anyone who'd listen "I'm obsessed with princesses, Power Rangers and Wizard of Oz".

The obsession with princesses is the only one that has persisted since (curse you Disney!), so I hadn't listened to this in a while until this morning. I was struck again by how good the music is - not just "Somewhere over the rainbow" (which was Isabelle's favourite song when she was around 4 months old), but "Ding dong the witch is dead", "If I only had a brain", "Follow the yellow brick road" and more. Despite that it was never really a hit in the house. It's a kind of odd album - the music is taken unedited from the film, so there's bits and pieces of songs scattered everywhere. "If I only had a heart/a brain/the nerve", for example, appears in a few fragments, one for each of Dorothy's companions. Other songs are similarly broken up, or, like all the little tunes the Munchkins sing to welcome Dorothy, extremely short ... I suppose what I'm getting at is that, good as the music is, the CD feels like an incomplete experience without the visuals.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sing-Along Songs from Glasses Island - The Speks

The first Irish kids music act I've come across, this is a nursery rhyme CD containing many of the usual suspects, but played as (and in some cases set to) Irish traditional music - for example "Miss Polly had a dolly" is set to the tune of The Little Beggarman. It's refreshing to hear children's music sung in a Irish accent, and to hear some of the pre-school songs you get here that you don't tend to find on UK and US releases (like Michael Finnegan and The Scarecrow). It's well put-together by what sounds like proper trad musicians (flute, guitar, banjo, tin whistle, fiddle, etc) with a great line in close harmonies.

I like it. Haven't tried it out on the kids yet, but I reckon they'll dig it too. You can listen to it on bandcamp here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Outside Voices - The Pop-ups

There's a bit of chat about these guys on the kindie blogosphere at the minute, so I thought I'd check them out on bandcamp. Whoa! They're very good! It's pretty diverse - from the Flaming Lips-ish first track to the squelchy electronics of "Subway train" to the dubby reggae of "Balloon" ... and that's only the first three tunes. These are very well-produced real, proper songs (with a kicking brass section) that you'd be delighted to hear on grown-up radio. Even the weaker tracks here are head and shoulders above most of their kindie contemporaries. Very impressed.

You can listen for yourself on bandcamp here

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cinderella - Prokofiev / Sleeping Beauty - Tchaikovsky (narrated by Brian Cant)

If you're introducing people to classical music, ballets are a great place to start as the music tends to be extra dramatic. This CD has music from the two famous fairytale ballets interspersed with the stories themselves as told by Brian Cant.

I especially like Cinderella as it's a bit more modern-sounding and less formal, but the music in both cases is very very good. I love the narration because it's so NOT dumbed-down - plenty of long sentences and no cutesy-ness.

Isabelle, alas, doesn't like it as much as I do, I think primarily because the musical pieces are quite long, and 5 minutes of instrumental music between story fragments is just too much for her, no matter how dramatic it is. Maybe when she's older.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Disney's Lullaby Album

One of the best-sellers on the kids tunes site. The tunes are all familiar - stuff like "When you wish upon a star" and "Wonderful world" - and it's played by real musicians. The arrangements are vaguely easy-listening-ish but very good - it works as pleasant background music for grownups as well as for sending kids to sleep (which it has done successfully in my house many times). The instrumentation is very lush (lots of strings!) which I expect means it's good at blocking out ambient noise and so work particularly well in noisy places (I can't vouch for this myself though as we live out in the countryside where it's quiet).

Buy it now on www.kids-tunes.com

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Designed by a "neuroscientist", this takes itself very seriously - lots of science-y twaddle about the vestibular system and binaural beats and arousal centres in the liner notes, plus the hilarious warning "Do not use when operating heavy machinery".

Having said that, the first time I put this on for Heather she fell asleep almost instantly. I was impressed, but the feat was never repeated. It's actually quite a decent lullaby album if you ignore the foolishness - well-known classical pieces nicely played on violin and piano, although the sudden changes in the volume and whooshing effects are a bit off-putting.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A 2007 compilation of (mostly original) music for kids from the underground scenes of Seattle and Baltimore. More left-of-centre than most stuff aimed at kids, this has songs that would very much fit in to the Dublin underground scene and so it feels like I'm on home turf here. There's indie rock with various degrees of poppiness and/or punkiness, there's electronic music, there's post-rock-y stuff. The standard is really high - there's only one poor tune (by the best-known band, funny enough (Mudhoney)), and the rest are good with a few fantastic ones like Mary Timony's "Clap your hands" and Young Fresh Fellows' "Picnic". The words are good too - no preachiness, no talking-down, no over-eagerness.

Niamh has an issue with some of the singers' pitching, but the songs are really good and Isabelle loves quite a few of them. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Putumayo Kids presents African Playground

Mostly lightweight African pop, including a few tunes you might have heard before, like "Mbube" (European-ized as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight") and Them Mushrooms' "Jambo Bwana".

Surprisingly same-y, given the vast size and diversity of the continent. Although I like a few of the songs it's a bit light for my taste, and there's lots of African music out there that I much prefer.