The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast – Todd McHatton

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I am just gonna dive right into this new find here because I am extremely excited about it.

Todd McHatton has just launched a new podcast that we are cuckoo crazy over.

The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast, dubbed as “an imaginary NPR style rock and roll space comedy,” debuts (officially) Thursday, April 21, 2016, but is available digitally now for anyone ready to experience a harkening back the golden age of radio. Broadcasting twice monthly from a red and white rocket hurtling through the Galaxy friendly monsters Marvy and Finch along with other special guests (voiced by McHatton) cover topics that channel the mystery, intrigue, drama, and comedy of old time radio. Each character has a very inviting way of drawing you into their world of galactic awesomeness. The podcast covers live sports coverage of events like the Semi-Final Regional Galactic Bubble Blowing Contest, music reviews featuring artists like Flat and U Lence, news programming and even quirky sponsors.

The fact that this podcast is being marketed to kids/families makes it so unique because it’s reach is really so broad. There really is nothing like it out there in the kids podcast market and it’s so refreshing. Adults who love Monty Python and even cult fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will appreciate the way the characters exchange dialogue throughout, and particularly when it comes to the science-based aspects of the podcast. There is also a touch of Mister Rogers in there in terms of the thought McHatton has put into bringing all of these weird and wonderful characters to life. Underneath it all, there is a big-hearted person who has managed to hold on to that sense of wonder and imagination that has allowed him to create infinite amounts of excellent experiences for all ages.

Underneath it all McHatton’s love of comedy, novelty, and preserving vintage gold of yesteryear just shines. Listeners will be drawn in by McHatton’s natural and endearing presentation which feels as though he is sharing his favorite things with you, his friends.
In short, The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast is just McHatton being McHatton and that has always been my favorite thing about listening to anything he produces. I think it will be yours too.
Subscribe to The Imaginary Accomplishments Podcast today because I really shouldn’t be the only one putting this on repeat more than once an hour.
And there are TWO episodes just waiting for you! Go!

Check this out: “A Club Called Awesome” – The Singing Lizard

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Being part of something special. It’s a longing that defines us as humans – whether we’re 7 or 77. Imagine for your child an open club where everyone belongs and is welcome to just be themselves. No overthinking things. No self-consciousness. Just the freedom to enjoy the heck out of every moment of childhood. Pure and simple.

Bay Area-based singer-songwriter Liz DeRoche (aka The Singing Lizard) captures this joy in her new album, Club Called Awesome. With a sun-kissed electro-pop sound, she opens her arms wide and invites everyone to be part of the action, beat by splendid beat.

Throughout the album you get the feeling that DeRoche is the kind of person that EVERYONE would love having as a friend on the playground. You can hear it in her uplifting, breezy tone. There is a reassurance, a sincerity that you are with someone who wants the best for those in her company. Club Called Awesome was inspired by and largely reflects back on DeRoche’s own childhood in which she started her own club in a friend’s tree house and “made friends with every kid in the neighborhood.” DeRoche shares, “I was allowed to grow up in my way, with my own peculiar inquisitiveness. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but there was never a lack of love and laughter.” It is in these thoughts that you can find the bedrock of the album’s heart.

While the album succeeds in its mission of fun, DeRoche also ventures into the territory of feelings and acceptance. “Show Me Your Happy” calls upon kids to demonstrate an expression of happiness (“show me your happy / jump up and down / clap your hands / dance to the beat”). “Feeling Blue” tells kids it’s okay to feel their feelings because everyone has tough days, especially when “you’re growing up and learning how to be yourself.” “Be Yourself” expresses that whether you are a boy or a girl there are no rules that define you. You are welcome to play just as you are, whether that means being the kind of girl that likes to ride her bike in the mud or a boy who makes cookies for his great grandma. It’s an empowering message that I would have wanted to hear as a kid and the message that I want my daughter Emily to hear as often as possible.

There is so much goodness baked into Club Called Awesome. DeRoche fills each song with positive messages, meeting kids where they are, identifying with them and making them feel safe to be themselves. No judgment. As members of this awesome club, kids can expect a wonderfully inclusive, welcoming place that promises to provide nonstop excitement. Friends will be made. Fun will be had.

You can purchase Club Called Awesome on iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp. As a bonus, listeners will receive a comic book version of the album written by DeRoche.

Stay in touch with The Singing Lizard at her official site, Twitter and Facebook to learn about new music releases and shows.

Check This Out: Explorer of the World – Frances England

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Artist: Frances England
Album: Explorer of the World (official store) | iTunes | Amazon
NOTE: Read through for bonus activities for you and your family inspired by this album. England will be releasing an accompanying activity book (expected May 2016).

“Be an explorer of your world.” These were instructions given to my classmates and me during a recent improv class. Our assignment was to embody our experiences, put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

For example, the next time you eat sushi, imagine being the sushi chef. Embodying that identity brings you closer to the experience of eating sushi, appreciating the texture and taste beyond what you could access as just the consumer. You connect with your imagination and feed your curiosity.

I recalled the impact of this exercise when I first heard Frances England’s new album, Explorer of the World.

Sometimes people look they don’t see. They hear without listening. They miss the beat. And I don’t want to be the one to miss out. The one who’s not looking at the world around. (“Explorer of the World”)

We spend so much of our time in front of screens, digitally connecting with the world, that we forget to really see what’s around us. As my daughter Emily has gotten older and her interests have shifted more to gaming (and the excitement of a new Poseidon dragon being born in her game!), I admit I’ve become less motivated to get outside and just discover with her.

This modern-day state of affairs is partly what inspired England to create Explorer of the World, which urges families to find beauty in the world around us and really dig in.

Children are natural explorers and really the best improv instructors. Their imagination and super curiosity fuels us as parents. We get to break new ground with our kids in the real world. And it does get real. Like that moment when your child is playing with her umbrella in the gusty wind and she turns to you and asks, “What if I threw an umbrella up into space while standing on the sun?”

Those are the precious moments that Explorer of the World characterizes and inspires. In “Little by Little” England sings “I do love you, you appreciate the wonder in everything,” and I feel my heart ache because I want every moment to last while knowing the days are quickly ticking by. England brings such depth of emotion as a mother, the whole hearted and body feeling of loving your children with everything you have, wanting to savor the time you have with them while reassuring them (and yourself) that you will always be there. This is underscored in “My Street” as England sings, “I’ll be there to show, show, show you the way / I’ll be there to warn you about those twists and those turns / I’ll be there to lead you back home, to lead you back.”

What I love about Explorer of the World is the subtle reminder that feeding your curiosity doesn’t mean spending a lot of money or a big, grand outing; the world around us – whether city, country or our own backyard – provides so many little things to see, to understand and to learn. We can find patterns in common sights and familiar places and rhythm in everyday life, whether it’s stopping to listen to a beatboxer or grabbing hold of opportunity and pretending to be a tightrope walker on the shadow of a telephone wire.

francesenglandbannerA long-time resident of San Francisco, California, England uses the artful city as the backdrop and inspiration for her fourth album. In fact, England spent two years capturing the sights and the sounds of the city by carrying around a handheld recorder and integrating what she recorded into the songs. For Bay Area residents, the bucket drumming that opens “Street Life” is a street performance on Market Street, and ambient noises were recorded on late night walks through North Beach.

England is sensitive to the world. She feels through the things she sees and can so vividly recreate the richness and emotion of an experience. There is this layer of being awake, the exhilaration of seeing what we see when we step outdoors, to bond through our experiences together when we let the sizzle of our surroundings breathe life into us and take us away.

To produce Explorer of the World, England once again teamed up with Grammy award-winning producer Dean Jones. The album was also co-produced with Dave Winer from Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players. The result is a very eclectic composition that mixes electro and acoustic melodies and harmonies with a rhythmic blend of funk and beats. This new dynamic is a very fitting dimension to England’s smooth sound.

So whether we pretend to be a sushi chef, pack up a bag to climb Mt. Everest, make a map of our neighborhood, visit where our parents grew up, or actually fly to another land and step through a new culture, we have the power to experience life together as a family, treasuring every moment little by little. Those are memories that will change us, strengthen bonds, and last far beyond the time Poseidon the dragon was born.

Bonus activity: Be an explorer! Listen closely to England’s lyrics that offer fun suggestions to dive deeper into the adventures right outside your door. Watch for England’s accompanying activity book (expected May 2016).

  • Neighborhood Map: Make a map of your neighborhood. Draw in the houses. Fill in the trees. What about cars and their colors? Shrubs, animals, fences, mailboxes, kids, sidewalk cracks, neighborhood oddities and fixtures? Go home and draw your version of your neighborhood map and compare to your family members’ map. Discuss the ways you see things in similar and different ways.
    • Quiet Observation: Take a camera and notebook on a walk. Spend 10-20 minutes walking silently (depending on your children’s ages) and observe the things you pass every day until you find at least three patterns you’ve never noticed before. Look for shapes. Look for color. Talk about the patterns. Take notes. Take photos of the patterns.
  • Neighborhood History: Find out who has lived on your street the longest. Interview them. What has changed? What’s better? What’s worse?
  • People Watching: Sit on a bench in a public area or silently walk through your town or city. Listen to the people walking by. What are they saying? Write a story about who they are and where they’re going.
  • Family Meeting: Arrange a time for a family meeting. Bring a calendar. Have each family member name a place he or she really wants to go this year. Maybe the museum, the waterpark, the train stations, the zoo, camping trip, kayaking, the mountains, the ocean. Decide what’s realistic and write it down (whether it’s today, tomorrow, this year or in the near future).  

 

Behind the Scenes of The Great Pretenders Club Special with The Pop Ups and Producer Avtar Khalsa

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Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein (aka The Pop Ups) are on a path to reach the stars! Since their 2011 debut, this Brooklyn-based duo has produced four albums, created their first stage show Pasta!, premiered a music video for “Subway Train” at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, received two Grammy nominations, were featured guests on Sprout TV’s “Sunny Side Up Show,” and released their first web series (14 episodes).

Recently, Jason and Jacob expanded further into broadcasting territory with their first full-length digital video, The Great Pretenders Club (“The GPC Special”), which was released in partnership with Amazon and made available exclusively to Prime Members for streaming.

The GPC Special brings the concept of their eponymous 4th album to life: the magic and rewards of pretend play (my favorite kind!). Just like Sesame Street pioneered children’s television in the 1970s, The GPC Special steps up to honor the values of “unplugged” play and education while acknowledging that the delivery of media broadcast is changing.

The parallel between the classic Sesame Street productions and the production style of The GPC Special is pleasantly familiar. The Pop Ups’ attention to detail is stupendous, and each element – use of brilliant color, puppets, music – comes together in a fantastic multi-media experience. It’s clear that The Pop Ups have managed to hold onto the kids within themselves, and by playing at their craft, they not only are practicing what they preach, but inviting us to play along with them.

Although geared toward children, The GPC Special will tickle the nostalgic funny bone of grown-ups who grew up watching Sesame Street. The feature employs the same subtle mature sense of humor that will encourage parents to watch along with their children and take part in the experience.

I recently caught up with Jason and Jacob, and producer Avtar Khalsa, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process that lead to this milestone. Since The Great Pretenders Club album preceded the creation of the The GPC Special, I asked The Pop Ups some questions about their creative inspiration before diving deeper into the studio experience with Avtar. There were a few surprises I didn’t see coming!

As you’ll read in the interview below, Jason and Jacob are two playful guys who take the study of play pretty seriously. And with a stellar cast and crew, their vision for the next generation was brought to life.

Be sure to read on for access to The Great Pretenders Club badges. Amazon Prime member? Stream The GPC Special and download The Great Pretenders Club album now.


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KCG: Jacob and Jason, let’s start with the concept for The Great Pretenders Club album since that gave way to the creation of The GPC Special. What was the inspiration for The Great Pretenders Club in the first place? Did you have ideas about developing it into a broadcast special from the start?

Jacob Stein: The songs were built around the idea of play, with each one celebrating a different imaginative game or adventure. We were really interested in theories behind play being one of the great tools for learning in the animal world. We spent some time reading and researching papers on the subject. My cousin, Marc Beckoff, is a PhD who studies animal play and he really helped us see the bigger picture.

At a certain point the idea to corral the songs into a connected piece called The Great Pretenders Club became one of those obvious moments in art, which you could never have predicted but which also feels undeniable once it appears. We’ve always dreamed of making a TV show, and this felt like a natural place to take the album concept.

P1010505KCG: Did acting out the scenes in the studio bring you closer to experiencing your music?

JS: We wrote much of the album in a beautiful field in the woods of Cobbleskill, NY in the Catskills mountains, a 10-minute walk from any phones or internet or even electricity.

KCG: Was being on set similar to being on stage during live performances? Though both productions are theatrical in nature your live shows are just the two of you and your puppets.

JS: For the acting production, it’s just so different. We built a big set and we had a big crew of puppeteers, producers, PAs and sound and camera people, and wardrobe and art departments. The list just goes on! Sometimes we had as many as 10-15 people on set for any given shot.

What was also different about this production was that me and Jason were not doing all of
the puppeteering ourselves. We got to watch our very personal characters take on a new life in the hands of extremely talented puppeteers Paul McGuinness and Matt Atcheson.

KCG: Did you have favorite roles/parts?

Jason Rabinowitz: When I get blown off screen by the storm in “On Air,” I jumped into a metal file cabinet. That was exciting! I liked being the conductor, honestly.

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KCG: Avtar, how did you first get involved with The Pop Ups?

Avtar Khalsa: They were looking for a Producer for their web series last year, and my name showed up on c4042714-970b-447f-acd0-8a8db4d111b7a list of recommendations. The band’s Manager Jon McMillan and I had worked together peripherally on another project years back (The Railroad Revival Tour), so when he saw my name he got in touch right away. I went down to The Pop Ups’ studio in Brooklyn to discuss the project and see if it was a good fit. When I walked into the room and shook their hands I immediately sensed their eagerness to to make something really great. I could tell something incredibly special was happening there in their little studio space, and I wanted to be a part of it!

There are many bands that make music for children, and there are many people who make cartoons and put on puppet shows, but they were doing it all together, in such a unique, thoughtful, imaginative, and brilliant way. Fun and relatable to kids, yet educational, and something their parents could enjoy too. And the music is amazing, those catchy songs really get stuck in your head!

KCG: Is this your first production for children’s media? 

AK: I mostly work on commercials, and some have been geared towards children, or had children in them, but the work I’ve done with The Pop Ups is the first I’d actually call children’s media.

KCG: Is this your first time working with puppets on camera?

AK: Yes! In production we need to be able to adapt to any situation, and it’s always a constant636fb7f6-2857-44f6-9194-84dac51863d9 learning experience, but I never thought I was going to be learning about the importance of the puppet wall, or the perfectly placed googly eye. It was great watching the first rehearsals with their puppets Up, Down and Chef Olivia di Pesto. Seeing these characters come to life was a true joy.

The first time you meet puppets in person you kind of fall in love. There is something so magical about them. As someone who grew up watching Sesame Street, it might partly be nostalgia, but they immediately bring a smile to anyone’s face, and lighten any situation. Every time I would mention to anyone that I was working on a shoot with puppets, their eyes would widen and they’d say, “I love puppets!!” Because I think everyone does.

KCG: Where did you draw inspiration from for the making of the GPC Special?

AK: After the web series was released I had been in contact with The Pop Ups about some music videos they wanted to make. By the time I was brought on to produce them, they had morphed into The Great Pretenders Club Special. Most of the creative and storyline was already in place. It made sense that they were making it into more of a show then just individual videos. I personally think they should make an episodic TV series, it would be a perfect fit for what they do, and a great way to inspire young children around the globe.

KCG: The album’s concept is based on encouraging and rewarding imaginary play. Did you find this to be challenging or easy to convey on screen?

P1010845AK: The Pop Ups are naturals when it comes to this. They have a complete grasp on how to relate to and catch the attention of young minds. They know how to entertain them, spark their imagination, and to teach them life lessons without them even knowing they are learning. Jason and Jacob have every scene planned out in their mind, they know ahead of time – frame by frame – how they want the video to be shot, acted, art directed, and edited. Everything is well thought out, and their creative vision is very clear.

The biggest challenge, I think, is getting their ideas organized and down on paper so they can be properly conveyed to the crew who has to help make them come to life!

KCG: How did you create the orchestra segment? What was the process behind that and the “Jake Maker”?

AK: First we had to build a Jacob Maker. Our Production Designer Melissa Chow is also,
it turns out, a magician. Once that was built, we just had to put Jacob inside and pull the lever. The rest is science! And green screen.

KCG: What was the most memorable moment(s)?

AK: The chicken soup/spaghetti scene was a lot of fun to make, as was the picnic scene. They both required a lot of choreography and comedic timing to get things just right. But I think the guys nailed it.

We also really loved having DJ Gia stop by the shoot. After days of shooting with our adult crew, it was nice to have a child on set doing her thing. She’s a seasoned radio DJ, but it was her first time on a film set, and she was a little shy at first. Seeing Jacob ease her out of her shell, getting her to laugh and feel comfortable was really cool. The band genuinely loves kids, and I think they really get them, and can get on their level and relate.

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KCG: Did Chef Olivia make meals for the crew?

AK: When Chef Olivia di Pesto isn’t filming cooking shows, she’s doing press events, book signings, or private events for foreign royalty. She’s a busy cat, so we felt really lucky to have her stop by for a picnic with the band. She didn’t have time to cook for us while she was there, but she did bring the crew tuna sandwiches for lunch. They were delicious!

KCG: Did you show early footage to kids and their families? What was some feedback you received?

AK: Jason’s daughter Ruthie has always been a good test audience. I wasn’t there when she watched it for the first time, but I heard she was in complete awe, and Jason was pretty excited about her reaction.


Amazon Prime Members can stream the The GPC Special here and The Great Pretenders Club album here.

Computer/Laptop – Stream the GPC Special from the Amazon Video Webpage.
Iphone/Ipad/Android device – download the Amazon Video App to stream and even download the GPC Special.
Roku/etc – Stream the video from the Amazon Video App.

Watch music videos for “Bird and Rhino” and “Let’s Pretend We Forgot” now.

Want to play along? Download The Great Pretenders Club badges by printing the templates below or downloading them directly from The Pop Ups official site.

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Mighty Mo Productions – Heart Beats: Feel Good Songs for Families

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Some kind of musical artistry dances in the magic of a “mix tape.” Hand picked tunes set in just the right order to create just the right sentiment for just the right person. The result is a collection of music that is personal and intimate. A present that doesn’t need a card attached. The message is in the music.

Mix tapes have staying power. Compilation albums, albums comprised of various artists, can have the same impact when curated well.

Mighty Mo Productions, a Kansas City-based indie record label started by Jim Cosgrove and Tim Brantman are curating music with the intent of delivering the same sentiment and appreciation as a mix tape. As a follow up to their 2015 debut Smiles Ahead, Mighty Mo Productions returns with Heart Beats: Feel Good Songs for Families, an album full of songs that are primed to bring you warm fuzzies.

Heart Beats assembles some of the same artists featured on Smiles Ahead such as Caspar Babypants, Brady Rymer, Katydid, Rissi Palmer and The Verve Pipe as well as newly added Ratboy Jr., Sunshine Collective, Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights, Andrew & Polly, Josh and the Jamtones and label creator, Jim Cosgrove (featuring Jazzy Ash). It’s a Who’s Who line-up of the indie kids music genre.

The 12 tracks swirl around the album’s overall theme: Love. Most tracks land solidly on the message of I Love You while The Verve Pipe’s “One Became Two” touches upon family, Brady Rymer’s “Light of Love” rallies for listeners to send joy out into the world, and Katydid’s “Love My Lovey” gets bonus points for its superhero ode to childhood “loveys.” (Perhaps a child’s most loyal love, aside from mom and dad, of course.) Joanie Leeds’ voice soars on the comfort of a goodnight hug and kiss in “Give Me A Hug,” and Ratboy Jr. gets tender with “E’s Lullaby” to cap it all off.

Music is a gift, and giving the gift of music is something really special. Heart Beats arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day, and really is worth a spin to lift the mood anytime.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the 7-year-old girl in the backseat who shouted “Turn it up!” so she and her best friend could sing along together. That, my friends, is what heart beats are made of.

Heart Beats is available for purchase through the Mighty Mo official site where you can also listen to samples of each track.

Bonus!: In celebration of the album, there will be four all-ages concerts taking place around the U.S., 3 of which are in Hallmark stores. The concert schedule is below and be sure to store locations and hours for more info.:

Saturday, January 30 at 11 amAmy’s Hallmark Shop, Manhattan Village, Manhattan Beach, CA – a morning sing-along featuring Andrew & Polly, Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove and Mista Cookie Jar (featured on Mighty Mo’s first album release, Smiles Ahead). Save 10 percent on CD purchases that day! FREE admission.

Sunday, January 31 at 11 am – McCabe’s Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA – a full-length family sing-along with Andrew & Polly, Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove and Mista Cookie Jar. Tickets: $10 each (kids under 2 free).

Saturday, February 6 at 11 am Amy’s Hallmark Shop, Airport Plaza, Farmingdale, NY. A sing-along with 2-time GRAMMY Award nominee and North Fork resident Brady Rymer, Brooklyn based kid-pop star Joanie Leeds, and Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove. Save 10 percent on CD purchases. Free admission.

Saturday, February 13 at 11 amAmy’s Hallmark Shop, Crown Center, Kansas City, MO. A sing-along with KC based artists Katydid and Jim “Mr. Stinky Feet” Cosgrove. Save 10 percent on CD purchases. Free admission.

Top 20 Albums & Honorable Mentions

Happy New Year! I’ve been tinkering for weeks about whether to put together a “best of” list. Lists have never been my thing, but this week when I pulled up past interviews, reviews and music, I was quickly reminded that 2015 was in fact another incredible year in kids’ music. So, let’s do this thing!

The list below represents a sampling of the 20 best albums from 2015 plus one from 2014 (because I included my picks for the Fids and Kamily Awards which considers albums between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015) and a few honorable mentions. The albums are presented in no particular order, and are personal favorites of mine and those of my 7-year-old daughter Emily. They appeal to families who love music, the adventure of finding more of it, and parents who want to foster a love of music in their own kin. This, for me, is the big enchilada. It’s what I enjoy most about being a part of the industry and covering it for you.  Take 10 minutes and sample a few songs on each album. I promise you’ll find more than one to love, regardless of your age.


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Pointed Man BandFlight of the Blue Whale (Interview)

[Flight of the Blue Whale] is eccentric. There is a meticulousness in the overall composition that captured my attention, in addition to the variety of instrumentation. Waltzes serve as segues, buoyantly carrying the listener along, while nontraditional objects are used to emphasize critical pieces of the story, e.g. Drinking glasses sonically illustrating weightlessness as a baleen whale takes flight.

 


Animal-Tales-Cover_smKey Wilde & Mr. Clarke – Animal Tales (Review)

Imagine if you were to open a National Geographic Kids or Ranger Rick magazine and there was music playing on each page. Animal Tales takes the pages of these beloved magazines and brings them to life with soundtracks cleverly matched to a variety of animal personalities. Each song is rich with fun animal facts, infused with the artists’ lovable sense of humor and clever ability to play with words and phrases, making it one of the most listenable and entertaining albums out there.

 


51TlHTX-0hL._SL500_AA280_Big Block Singsong – Greatest Hits (Interview)

The musical variety of Big Block SingSong is tremendous and the lyrics are insightful and amusing, A block with a German accent singing in euro-funk style about hair; a monkey snapping off bluegrass-y lyrics about a “Two Banana Day”; and, with a catchy indie-pop backdrop, caveman named Dave pointing out that an erupting volcano is a hot mess. These are just a few of the priceless gems you’ll find in this collection.


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Check this out: Alastair Moock – All Kinds of You and Me

a1194426617_10“You’ve gotta be who you’ve gotta be, a dancing plant or a cat who skis // A boy in a dress, a girl in a tree, you be you, I’ll be me.”
– “It Takes All Kinds,” All Kinds of You and Me

Artists in the kids’ music genre frequently reference two classic albums that inspired them and whose music embodies their same values: Schoolhouse Rock and Free to Be…You and Me. No doubt that both are landmarks, and it’s easy to see why many artists making music for families aspire to carry on the legacy of these albums and uphold the same values and messages.

Understandably, creating a modern day version of such a notable and groundbreaking album like Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be would be quite a feat. However, if anyone were to approach this task, Alastair Moock is the man.  To take on such an epically classic album that has impacted so many people and challenged society’s view of our world takes courage and really the perfect amount of humor and swagger. And I don’t mean swagger like Jagger.  Well, maybe in that way, but we’re talking about the children’s music genre. Think G-rated swagger.

In Free to Be, Thomas very directly spoke to her 1970’s society, proclaiming equality across all conceivable categories. With his latest album, All Kinds of You and Me, Boston-based singer-songwriter Alastair Moock picks up where Thomas left off. Joined by a stellar group of musicians (Rani Arbo of Daisy Mayhem, singer-songwriter Jennifer Kimball, Debbie Lan of Grenadilla, singer-songwriter Samirah Evans and producer Anand Nayak who is also from Daisy Mayhem), Moock gently reminds kids (and adults!) that we should all be free to be who we want to be, without limitations or the borders of stereotypes, and that love is very much a force that drives acceptance. Love of ourselves as well as one another.

Moock is a modern day Woody Guthrie, mixed with a hint of Bob Dylan. You can hear it in his style, in the way he uses music as a guide for justice and most certainly in his clever wit. His gentle voice with its signature rasp lends itself nicely to the Americana sounds of his compositions. Like Dylan, there is poignancy in Moock’s approach but also a deep well of passion for social justice, equality and healing through music.  As with poetry, artists can eloquently articulate in music what might seem heavy-handed, too serious or too awkward in the written or spoken word – especially for a young audience.

Through clever repetition, “My Life is a lot Like Yours” speaks from a child’s perspective and illustrates the normalcy of family life with same-sex parents (two moms/two dads), reinforcing that families might look different but they can still be a solid unit and operate in similar ways to those with a mom and dad at the helm. “You Might Be A Girl” stomps on gender stereotypes by articulating the endless possibilities available to girls today; Samirah Evans’ voice adds so much strength to this empowering song. Like it was written for her (and in a way it was), this song tops my daughter Emily’s favorites list.

Taking on topics and conveying them without preaching is delicate. Moock meets the right criteria with poetically intricate lyrics that are impactful, delightful and accessible to a large audience. His 2014 Grammy-nominated album, Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids, for example, gave listeners insight into his ability to address sensitive subjects head on; each song reflects his family’s experiences during the time when his daughter Clio (now in remission!) was diagnosed with leukemia. Moock’s capacity is tremendous.

In “I Am Malala,” Moock sings: “I raise up my voice for an equal chance // To live and learn and grow // to be who I want to be and explore // The things I want to know.” Through these words, he reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for who we believe we are. But through that courage we grow and learn how to make a lasting impact.

As I was listening to this album and thinking about an angle for a review, the seemingly ever-present phrase Live Laugh Love came to mind. While I recognize the beauty in this motivational quote, it’s so overused that I typically write it off as just another “Hallmark” greeting.

The thing is, the effect is much more meaningful and profound when I think of the words one by one. Each one makes a bold statement, commanding me to remember to hold onto its important value as I move about my day – as a parent and just as me. All Kinds of You and Me offers the same relief. My personal favorite song, “All in a Day (featuring Anand Nayak),” inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s book of the same name, smoothly underscores this sentiment with encouraging words: “...live it well, make it count // fill it up with you // The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now… // See what you can do.”

Whether we directly speak to our children about justice, acceptance and global love, we prominently place a big Live Laugh Love sign in our homes or we let the music do the talking for us, it’s never too early to incorporate the values woven within All Kinds of You and Me. Just like Guthrie and Dylan, and many others who spoke out so freely and took a stand for change and love, Moock proudly joins the ranks, inspiring future generations to do the same “cuz every life’s a kind of prize.”

All Kinds of You and Me is available through Moock’s official store.

Check out Moock’s video for “It Takes All Kind,” illustrated by Key Wilde, for a visual treat.