Songs for the Season Part 1


Now that we are past Thanksgiving, the holiday season is officially underway. Usually, we break out classic holiday CDs while stringing up lights around the house (and on my daughter’s dollhouse) and taking in the scents of our special candles. I’ve always loved the comfort of Ella Fitzgerald and Brenda Lee. Even Frank Sinatra and some instrumental holiday jazz have warmed our hearts on those cold nights. But for the past few years, we’ve added some variety to our music collection as some very talented kindie artists have released holiday albums containing both originals tunes and renditions of the season’s most beloved classics. The suggestions below are based on what we are listening to the most right now and those that we think your family will enjoy just as much. But, this is just the first list! There’s more to come so stay tuned for part 2!

You will find a YouTube playlist corresponding with the list of albums in this post, as well as the sample track “Jingle Bells” from Renee & Jeremy’s Sunny Christmas,” at the end of this post. Enjoy!

We have been devoted Laurie fans for several years now and getting to hear Laurie’s very first Christmas album,  A Laurie Berkner Christmas, means this holiday season just got a whole lot sweeter. Coupled with her infectious charm, the songs are catchy and likely to incite all kinds of movement. The album features 15 traditional holiday and seasonal songs, three of which were originally written by Laurie: “Santa’s Coming To My House Tonight,” “Candy Cane Jane,” originally featured on her 2008 release Rocketship Run, and “Christmas Lights.” Joining Laurie on the album is Brady Rymer in the spirited “Children Go Where I Send Thee (below)” and Elizabeth Mitchell in a beautiful, folksy rendition of “Silent Night.” While listening to A Laurie Berkner Christmas, kids will enjoy wiggling around, kicking their feet and laughing like they’re Santa Claus in “Santa’s Coming to My House Tonight,” spelling along with Laurie in “Jingle Bells” and learning about Gumdrop Joe, Candy Cane Jane and her horse with the candy cane mane in “Candy Cane Jane.”

A Laurie Berkner Christmas is truly delightful and one that should definitely be opened before Christmas. The album and the single “Candle Chase,” recorded especially for those who celebrate Chanukah, is available for purchase and digital download through Berkner’s site, Amazon, and other media outlets.

Expanding on their 2011 single “Sunny Christmas,” Renee & Jeremy recently released a 6-song EP just in time for the holidays. Like other recordings from the Los Angeles duo, Sunny Christmas is like comfort food for your soul. The album opens with a sentimental greeting in “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and you will instantly want to add your voice to the harmonious vocals and your hands to the rhythmic clapping. The title track, “Sunny Christmas,” is a bouncy pop tune that reminds us that the true gift of the season is spreading peace, love and happiness to those around us, relatives or not. It’s hard not to feel cozy and warm while listening to anything by Renee & Jeremy and Sunny Christmas is certainly no exception. So, as you string up your tinsel and mistletoe or sip a cup of hot cocoa, let Renee & Jeremy fill the room with joy as they wish you and your family good tidings. Sunny Christmas can be sampled and purchased through Renee & Jeremy’s site and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets. And be sure to listen to “Jingle Bells” at the bottom of the post.

Doni Zasloff, aka Mama Doni, brings us a quirky compilation of Chanukah songs that is sure to shine like a brightly lit menorah amidst the plethora of Christmas albums on the shelves or maybe even in your living room. Expanding on her 2008 EP, I Love Chanukah, Mama Doni’s Chanukah Fever celebrates the historical and traditional aspects of the holiday through a variety of musical styles, including disco, reggae, rock and ’80s freestyle rap. The 14-song album includes original tracks such as “The Funky Gold Menorah,” “Latke Man” and “La Vida Dreidel.” Even Hanukah Harry gets a personal note. Mama Doni’s songwriting skills and knack for Jewish humor is sure to bring your family to tears with laughter this holiday season.

Chanukah Fever can be sampled and purchased through Mama Doni’s site, Amazon and other media outlets.

Bonus: Mama Doni’s cookbook, Get Cooking, was just released, and it includes some fine family recipes and a 29-song CD. Grab it while it’s hot!

2013 UPDATE: Check out for Mama Doni’s new releases, Mama Doni’s Jewish Holiday Party(DVD) and Mama Doni: The Acoustic Jewish Holiday Collection (CD), available beginning November 12 at,, iTunes, FYE Stores, See of Sound, and directly through Mama Doni’s website. This collection of Chanukah themed songs is set to acoustic and bluegrass sounds creating a warm, sentimental vibe. Highly recommended. See YouTube video playlist below to check out some of these sweet sounds for songs like “A Chanukah Love Song, ‘Eight,'” “Honey This Ain’t Money,” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” which contains Hebrew and English verses.

A Kindie Christmas by Bay Area band The Hipwaders is not your typical holiday album. The album features 10 original songs is filled with a diverse array of sounds ranging from funk in “It’s Wintertime” to country rock in “Santa’s Train,” which features Santa coming down the tracks in a red hopper car full of toys, and the R.E.M.-like sound of “Wake Up.” Other songs include “Tinsel & Lights,” a nostalgic ode to festive traditions, and “Christmas Vicuna,” a humorous tale about a South American camel who dreams of flying like a reindeer.

A 2010 Honors Award winner from the National Parenting Publication Association (NAPPA), the album plays just like any other produced by The Hipwaders despite it’s holiday content. A Kindie Christmas is the perfect alternative to the classic carols of the season and will have your family rockin’ around the Christmas tree and beyond.

A Kindie Christmas can be sampled and purchased through the The Hipwaders’ site (where you can also find local holiday show dates), Amazon and other media outlets.

Dan Zanes’ fans will have another reason to celebrate the upcoming holiday season with the re-release of Christmas in Concord. The mini-album which celebrates the old Christian tunes that have been a part of Christmases in Zanes’ hometown of Concord, NH, for generations also has two new songs which feature Pulitzer Prize winning author Suzan-Lori Parks. Parks brings rich, soulful accompaniment in my favorite song, “Rise Up Shepherd and Follow.” The song was initially performed at a legendary local venue for people in need, known as the Friendly Kitchen. Later that weekend while driving to New York, they wrote “I’m Counting the Days Until Christmas” while reminiscing about their fathers’ experiences in the military. As with most of Zanes’ work, there is a feeling of joy in being surrounded by, creating and sharing music. Christmas in Concord carries the same feeling. Coupled with a nostalgic backstory, a well chosen collaboration and Zanes’ soft rasp, classics like “Joy To the World,” “Deck the Halls” and “Silent Night,” are sure to warm your heart as you snuggle and share your own stories with your loved ones. Christmas in Concord can be heard and purchased through Festival Five Records and Amazon, as well as other regular media outlets.

It’s Santa Claus by Ben Rudnick & Friends contains renditions of traditional holiday tunes that don’t stray too far from the sounds of the originals but certainly showcase the group’s signature folksy rock style. Among the album’s eight tracks, there is one original song, the title track. “It’s Santa Claus” is a bouncy tune that is just as jolly as the man in the red suit.
The album is made up of catchy arrangements filled with the instrumental stylings of the many “Friends” who play along with Rudnick. “Jingle Bells” is jazzy with saxophonic accents, and even “Greensleeves,” a song I obsessively played on the piano in my earlier days, gets a jumpstart with some fast-paced finger picking and accordion before it slows down toward the end.

It’s Santa Claus will provide your family with a fresh festive twist on holiday classics. You can hear samples and purchase It’s Santa Claus! through Rudnick’s site, Amazon and other media outlets. Learn about the inspiration for and the making of the album on Rudnick’s blog.

Holiday Playlist [Courtesy of YouTube]

Note: This post was also featured in the December issue of our local parents club (PAMP) newsletter. I reposted it here for my readers.

Concert Recap – Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players

On November 18th, 2012 we got to experience the rock awesomeness that is Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. The concert was held in the Smithwick Theater on the Foothills College campus in Los Altos, CA as a fundraiser for the Mountain View Parents’ Nursery School. The concert has been a tradition with the school for the past several years. Needless to say, there were some serious fans in the audience.

This was our first Justin Roberts concert and it was outstanding, to say the least. Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players are seasoned professionals when it comes to entertaining hip kids and their parents. Roberts, Grammy nominee and award-winning icon in the family music world doesn’t captivates the crowd within seconds by introducing a slew of movements to be acted out during the chorus of each song.

The band opened with “I Chalk,” from the 2008 release Meltdown, which had the audience swaying their arms during the “Whoa Whoa” part of the chorus. By the second song, “She’s A Yellow Reflector,” the slim bit of space in front of the stage became a serious dance party, jam packed with kids jumping and gyrating while reciting each word of their favorite songs in time with Roberts.

The 5-piece band was alive with energetic power pop and the rich set of bold colors rotating in the background seemed amplify the experience that much more. Big Dave (aka David Winer – trumpet/keyboard/percussion) wore his big shoes and brought out his friend Little Dave who sung a ditty about citrus fruit. There were also appearances by Willy the Whale (Liam Davis – guitarist, keyboards, vocals, producer) and Tim (Gerald Dowd – drums/vocals) who did a great job entertaining the crowd with some freestyle rapping (video below).

Roberts ran through songs from most of his albums, including two from his highly anticipated 2013 release and two that were Facebook requests. The set ended with “Trick Or Treat,” one of our favorites from the Grammy nominated album Jungle Gym. Fans were treated to an encore with songs from Pop Fly including “From Scratch,” a song in honor of Roberts’ grandmother, and “Stay-At-Home Dad. The latter of which featured a seriously metal solo by Liam with assistance from Little Dave to the tune of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.” Overall the entire experience deserves an A++ and we can’t wait for the entire crew to return next year!

All songs can be sampled and purchased from Justin Roberts’ site.

Below are videos from the show as well as a song list (which excludes the 2 songs played from Justin’s upcoming 2013 release, Recess).

Gym Class Parachute (Gym Class Parachute)

Doctor, Doctor (Way Out)

Freestylin’ Tim

Trick Or Treat (Jungle Gym)

Song list
Opener – I chalk (Meltdown)
She’s a Yellow Reflector (Pop Fly)
Henrietta’s hair (Pop Fly)
Nothing on you (Lullaby)
Gym Class Parachute (Jungle Gym)
Doctor, Doctor (Way Out)
Pop Fly (Pop Fly)
Fire Drill (Jungle Gym)
Willy Was A Whale (Yellow Bus)
Closed with Trick or Treat (Jungle Gym)
Encore with 2 songs – From Scratch (Pop Fly) and Stay-At-Home Dad (Pop Fly)

View This: “Count Them As They Go” – Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts, known in the kindie world for his high energy shows and catchy power-pop tunes has decided to slow down the pace with a moving lullaby album.  The first track on the album, “Count Them As They Go,” was recently released with a charming video directed and animated by ALSO.

The video for “Count Them As They Go” presents a dreamscape sprinkled with fluffy sheep in a tree-lined pasture and gliding birds under a blanket of stars.  Orchestral accents complement Roberts’ soft voice as we are lulled into a more peaceful state of mind through guided imagery.

Simply beautiful.

The album is now available for purchase at Amazon and Justin’s site, along with merchandise featuring those adorable fluffy sheep.

View This: “40 Things To Do In A Blackout” – The Pop Ups

I could really get used to these one-offs by The Pop Ups.  Although, I think this one deserves to be on a future album as well.  “40 Things To Do In A Blackout,”  is a new song to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Aside from benefitting victims of Sandy, I think we can all benefit from the activities suggested in this song.  So many of them are good for anytime you have a need to prevent yourself (and your kids) from going stir-crazy.  And, it’s especially timely as things like shorter days, darker playgrounds, double stuffed down jackets and golf umbrellas corner us into staying inside.

You can purchase the song through Amazon or by clicking on the link below.  All proceeds from the purchase of this song go to the Sandy relief effort and for $1 it’s more than worth it!

Check This Out: Big Bang Boom: Because I Said So!

Because I Said So!, the third release from North Carolina’s Big Bang Boom, is a real family jam party. This high energy album is packed with a dynamic blend of styles from good ole rock n’ roll to hip hop and even a bit of funk.

Big Bang Boom is made up of a trio of Dads, including Steve Williard, Eddie Walker and Chuck Folds, brother of Ben Folds (yep, as in Ben Folds Five). Because I Said So! feels like an introduction to college rock for tots. But make no mistake, the music is meant to appeal to a broad range of ages, including adults. And it certainly does! I can’t help but reminisce on my college days while listening to their catchy choruses and thought-provoking verses.

Because I Said So! delivers an enjoyable bunch of songs that address the deeper meaning of parent-child relationships and family dynamics. As fathers themselves, these guys write thoughtful lyrics based on their own experiences, as opposed to writing generic songs that simply fit the mold of being a band that makes music for kids. Their songs put the role of “kid” front and center, and it is that “kid” who sings about and responds to interactions with his or her parents. The scenarios are so relatable, it’s uncanny. There are several Seinfeld moments where I laugh out loud while listening to real-life scenarios throughout the album. Although, I can’t help but feel as though I am being taught a lesson, as well. Not in a preachy way, but in a way that makes me think more about how my own daughter experiences life through her little eyes and ears.

One of our favorite songs, “Make Me,” appeals to the idea that kids make mistakes but also seek to understand why there are rules and consequences. The song is so upbeat and catchy that you can’t help but get excited when you hear it. You can view the video below, as well as read my earlier post here.

Oftentimes it feels as though the sound and tempo of a song seem to match the message being expressed by either the parent or the child. “Bicycle,” a freewheelin’ (see what I did there) pop track that conveys a sense of pride and joy as a result of facing your fears while mastering a new skill. The verse and following chorus line proudly exclaim “…when I turn around I’m surprised I found/dad/let go of me/I’m rollin’ free/so I roll on and on and on….ridin’ my bicycle.” Every time we play this song, Em either says “This song makes me want to ride my bike!” or “Mom, when can I get a bigger bike to ride on my own?”

The growling intro to “Are We There Yet?” very accurately expresses the frustration often felt on car trips. The call and response style, mixed-in with a little cowbell, feels similar to a Beastie Boys song. “Because I Said So!,” the album’s title track, sounds like a mix between the Ramones and Blink-182 with its pop-punk makeup. The tone of the song accurately matches the discontented feeling a blanket answer like “because I said so” might feel to a kid.

The album also aims to educate with songs like “Green Light,” which lays out the rules of the road in a really fun and easy way. I have always found yellow to be a more difficult color to explain. However, this song ties it all together with the short and sweet catchphrase, “yellow means slow.” In fact, it’s so easy to convey that when my little backseat driver calls out “Mom, you are supposed to stop at yellow!” I am almost too pleased to remind her about this song and then ask, “What does yellow mean?” which is always answered with “Yellow means slow!” Of course, at the mercy of my own guilt, I still find myself launching into a wordy explanation, which almost always results in the snarky retort “Mom, I can’t hear the music.” Ah, parenting….

Other notable songs include, “The Counting Song,” a quick-paced rap which makes a game out of simple math (addition, subtraction) by using your fingers. “Put one finger up that’s all you gotta do/add another finger to the one and that’ll make 2/ take the one away from 2 it’ll leave you just 1 …grab yourself a friend plus you makes 2/ add the 1 and 1 that’s all you gotta do. ….so we added two fingers and we added two friends/added more and more so the counting never ends…” The call and response portions of the song carry a bit of a Sesame Street vibe as the chorus of kids echo back numbers as they are called out.

“Control” offers a bit of advice on impulse control and sibling rivalry while “One” encourages goodwill and a giving heart.

The album ends with “Goodbye,” a sweet little song with some humorous reminders mixed in. Because I Said So! contains 11 tracks with a runtime of 27 minutes which is nice for the shorter attention spans of the younger bunch while leaving the older bunch eager to put the album on repeat. Em and I dig the sounds blasting out of our speakers and we think you will too. Recommended for all ages and then some!

You can listen to samples of the entire album here. The album can be downloaded and purchased through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a copy for possible review. All opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own.

View This: “Don’t Make Fun Of The Goobler” – Elska

“Yes, another Elska music video!” This is what was exclaimed by my 3yr old as I showed her the latest video from Elska’s release Middle of Nowhere.

Directed and animated by Alex Funke, who was awarded Oscars for his work in The Lord of the Rings movies as the Visual Effects Director of Photography: Miniature Unit, “Don’t Make Fun of the Goobler” introduces us to yet another one of the inhabitants on the Island of Elska.  The “Goobs,” is a happy little green fellow who is a very special friend to Elska as we are informed through her lyrics “my little green homeslice, the goobs is so nice.”  And we think so too.

Middle of Nowhere was an instant hit with Em and we still continue to play it on a regular basis.  Elska brings us so much joy and with each new music video we get more excited to meet new friends.  Although the video is simple, mainly featuring Elska, gorgeous Icelandic landscaping and the Goobler, it’s the mixture of the bouncy electro-beats and the colorful wonder of this “otherworld” that continues to draw us in.

We’ve got nuttin’ but love for the Goobs and so will you!  You can read an interview and learn more about Elska and her friends here.

[Courtesy of YouTube]

View This: “Give It Away” – Renee & Jeremy

From their latest release, A Little Love, Renee & Jeremy bring us a breathy, ethereal cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ classic “Give It Away.”

Created by the stop motion film company, Shipmate Title, the video for “Give It Away” takes us on a psychedelic musical voyage spreading peace along the way in the form of ice cream! Even the Man in the Moon is sent a confectionary offering.

When I watch this video I can’t help but think of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. It’s a pretty trippy video that combines fantasy with a bit of science fiction while still retaining its innocence in the form of an adorable mouse and his ice cream truck. It’s certainly not what I expected but I love how Renee & Jeremy weave in an underlying theme, which becomes apparent at the end of the video, tying it all together.

Renee & Jeremy stay true to who they are while delivering a bit of “eye candy.” It will definitely catch the attention of all ages.

[Courtesy of YouTube]