Music Review and Free Mother’s Day Download: Hello My Baby – Vered

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Today’s music review is for a special album that will resonate with new parents, new-ish parents, and grandparents. In honor of Mother’s Day, you will find a free download at the end of this post so read on!

The first time I celebrated Mother’s Day was when I was pregnant. It felt so strange to suddenly be included in this Hallmark holiday without actually having a baby yet. At the same time, I knew it marked a major milestone. I just didn’t know how major. After having my daughter, I remember thinking “Now what?!” Suddenly, I was responsible for this new life, so fragile and dependent, and I felt completely unprepared. I had so many questions! Being around other moms kept me together and sane.  Looking back, I wish I had Vered Benhorin’s new album, Hello My Baby.

Hello My Baby reaches out with a loving hand to remind all of us, babies included, that it’s all ok. Through warm, soothing vocals, Vered relates to her audience like a best friend who understands and will support you. Her songs remind me of how lucky I am to be a mom. Hello My Baby delves into the most complicated aspects of parenting in which we are constantly at odds with selflessness and selfishness; being a parent while still wanting to be nurtured ourselves. As I listen, I find myself laughing, crying and just taken by the reality of it all. 

The album opens with the title track “Hello My Baby,” which is more than just a greeting. In many ways, it’s the start of an experience that reflects the diverse and sometimes conflicted range of emotions that we have as parents. The second song, “Jump,” expresses the joy and and physical response our bodies have when we see that beautiful face, glowing eyes, and bright, toothless smile.  …“makes my insides go jump.”

Since her last record, Vered has spent time working with families and developing her company, Baby in Tune. With advanced degrees in both Music Therapy and Psychology, plus being a mom herself, Vered explains that “These songs are first and foremost based on my personal experience as a mom. But they are also informed by the time I spend listening to new parents who are looking for someone to relate to. I hope that these songs express how we all feel as parents and our connections to ourselves and our babies.”

In “Something other than a Mom,” Vered unmasks the naked, raw emotion of remembering who you were, who are you are now and how the two identities converge into one: “These days i forget to look into a mirror/ But if a glass catches me/ I see something other than a mom/ When I run my hands over my body/ I feel something strange/ It’s not like when i was something other than a mom/ It’s not to say that I don’t like being her/ But I’ve grown to know and love another/ So my baby/ Since you came/ I wonder if she’ll return.” This is something that goes through my mind all the time. Though I have been a mom for six years, and have mostly returned to my pre-baby form, I am still very aware that my body has changed, as has my identity. I know I can’t be the same girl I used to be, but as I listen to this song, I feel that I can be both the mom I am now and the girl I once was. 

Parenting is an adventure which presents many opportunities to learn, change and grow with your baby. Hello My Baby is a memorable album and one that I have not yet encountered in terms of its intent, depth and honesty for parents. This special collection of songs bridges the connection between parent to baby, encouraging a rich bonding experience. This album is a perfect companion to Vered’s debut, Good Morning My Love. I just wish I was handed these CDs instead of sitting through a birthing video from the 60’s in Lamaze class.

BONUS: I hope you enjoyed today’s music review! Hello My Baby is an exceptional album. In honor of Mother’s Day, Vered is offering Kids Can Groove readers a free download of her song “Changing.” Grab it here

Learn more about Vered’s work at the Baby in Tune official site.

For tips on using music to bond with your baby, check out Vered’s guest post here.

Video Premiere: “Grand March from Aida” – Dog On Fleas

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Baby it’s cold outside and with each weather report comes the call of yet another battle against nature. Fear not, for Dog On Fleas has come to offer a reprieve! In their video for “Grand March from Aida,” a “triumphal march” takes place as a procession of creatures strut, scurry and float across the screen. There’s even a surprise guest in the mix (Gustafer Yellowgold fans, I’m looking at you)! And what would a triumphal march be without the right ensemble? Thanks to the Backyard Dorkestra, the animal parade is given some regality while being accompanied by a a melange of instruments, including an accordion, kazoo, bassoon, flugelhorn, violin, sousaphone and glockenspiel, to name a few.

“Grand March from Aida” was originally written by Giuseppe Verde for his opera, Aida, and can be found on the Fleas’ eighth album, Buy One Get One Flea, which officially releases today! While the song is completely instrumental, it stays with you, leaving you no choice but to grab a kazoo and create your own grand parade. So sound the alarms, raise a ruckus, stomp around, heat things up and join in the celebration!

Buy One Get One Flea is available for purchase via CdBaby.

For more Dog on Fleas goodness, don’t miss their one-hour Rumpus Room concert this weekend. Details below:

Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch. 78) features a special Dog on Fleas Rumpus Room. The concert will be airing 4X this weekend:
Friday Feb 21 –  6pPST/9pEST
Saturday Feb 22 –  9 am EST / 6 am PST, 5 pm EST/ 2 pm PST
Sunday Feb 23 – 12pEST/9aPST

Singled Out: “Dad Caught Stars” – Justin Roberts

Initially featured on Roberts’ 2003 release, Not Naptime, “Dad Caught Stars,” is a beautiful tale of a father and child sharing a moment under the stars. This song will grab onto your heartstrings as Roberts transforms a special moment into something magical. It’s just precious!

Note: Roberts will have a new release, Recess, out at the end of July. For more information and updates, check out his official site. In the meantime, you can preview and purchase Not Naptime, as well as Roberts’ other albums to date through the official store.

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.

Sneak Preview: Blue Clouds – Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower

Elizabeth Mitchell is on a roll, just coming off of a tribute to Woody Guthrie, and now with an upcoming release in October called “Blue Clouds.”

“Blue Clouds” is another Smithsonian Folkways release and it is sure to be yet another beautifully arranged album.  With some originals, renditions of traditional songs and covers from David Bowie, Van Morrison and even Jimi Hendrix I’d say we’re in for a treat.

Below is a sneak preview of a few songs from the album, which includes the Bowie cover “Kooks”, a rendition of “Froggie Went-A-Courtin” and the title track “Blue Clouds,” a lullaby written by Daniel Littleton (Mitchell’s husband) for their daughter Storey when she was 3 years old.

Sneak Preview – Listen to Selections from Blue Clouds

View This: “Five Little Monkeys” – Story Laurie

“Five Little Monkeys” is a song from Story Laurie’s most recent album, “Groovin’ In the Garden.” The video portrays Laurie’s take on the classic, beloved tale of those silly little monkeys. The video has the same elements as the book, except in this version the Mama is wearing funky striped socks. Jazzy sounds along with a special appearance by Dean Jones from Dog On Fleas who can be seen helping a monkey play the cuica, as well as, playing a little whistle solo himself make both the video and the song more fun than a barrel of well…you know…

Now that I’ve seen this video I think I’ll go have a little jump on the bed as well. Who says Mamas can’t have fun, too?

Enjoy!
Video Courtesy of [YouTube]

Check This Out: The Harmonica Pocket – Apple Apple

Fall is approaching and that means beautiful colors, cozy sweaters and delicious apples. What better way to celebrate the upcoming season than with a new release from The Harmonica Pocket.

Apple Apple, the third children’s release from The Harmonica Pocket, is a melodic dream. The eloquence with which the words and instrumentation flow throughout the album leave you feeling like someone just whispered a gentle lullaby in your ear. It’s very sweet and the stories these songs tell contain simple words and familiar concepts which the wee ones should easily identify with.

The Harmonica Pocket is primarily made up of Keeth Apgar (main vocals, master songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) but also features a regular group of folks, one of which includes partner, Nala Walla, who delivers rich harmonic vocals throughout the album, as well as, fellow Seattle-based Kindiependent artists such as Johnny Bregar (banjo), Jack Foreman from Recess Monkey (bass throughout) and Caspar Babypants (vocals). The recording of this album, as well as their previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington.

Many of the songs on Apple Apple are like poems, with each line complementing the one before it. What I particularly love about the album is how it plays with linguistics, character development and timing. The songs are multi-dimensional, containing carefully paired lyrical and musical melodies. The instruments in many of these songs are just as important as the words, often times acting as another voice with the pluck of a chord or the warm, rich tone of the saxophone at just the right time. They even serve to heighten a climatic moment within a song just by a change in time signature. A great example of this is in “Afraid of Heights,” a beautiful song about a bird who comes out of its shell and is afraid to fly. The song starts in 4/4 time and makes a transition to 3/4 time when the bird sees the sky, faces its fears and flies. It’s this simple change that evokes a feeling of exhileration that comes from overcoming your fears, just as the little bird did.

The sentiment behind Apple Apple is somewhat different than the previous, highly acclaimed “Ladybug One” as both Keeth and Nala have become parents. As a result, several of the songs, i.e. “Diaperman,” “Monkey Love,” “Reflections” and “Little Baby,” to name a few, are inspired by this new development. The songs carry a calming, chilled out vibe with some notes of folk, jazz, pop and even some reggae.

Conceptually, there is also this notion of experiencing life “naturally” and having that be the driving force behind the creative process. A great example of this is the smooth, jazzy little song “Bare Feet,” which was inspired by Apgar’s personal experience with climbing trees as a child (and somewhat occasionally as an adult). The song describes kicking off your shoes, climbing a tree with bare feet and observing the feeling of the bark, the wind blowing, as well as, looking with wonder at the birds and the leaves on the trees. I love the lyrics “Kick off my shoes/Pull myself up by my own hands/A breeze blows through/Everything moves and we slow dance/Above me only clear blue sky/So good to be outside/I forget sometimes/That I need to play/Everyday/…And all I need are my bare feet/climbing up to the top of this apple tree.”

In addition to apples, the album covers a variety of topics. There is counting in “I’m Gonna Count” which invites listeners to count stones on the beach by single digits (1, 2, 3), leaves on the trees by even numbers (2, 4, 6, 8) and stars in the sky by 5’s (5, 10, 15, 20…) and syllabic playfulness in the title track “Apple Apple” where each word is broken up and sung with one syllable. It’s a great game to play with the actual lyrics of the song, but also in making up your own words. It’s always good for a few laughs.

Em particularly gets a kick out of the baby tooting in “Little Baby” and laughs with a slight squeal after waiting for it. She knows it’s coming and waits in anticipation with a smile, repeating “just wait, it’s comin’ up, it’s comin’ up, the baby’s gonna toot!” until she hears it.

Other notable songs include one of our favorites “Monkey Love,” features Caspar Babypants as Monkey two. The song basically uses the word Monkey repetitiously to tell the tale of three monkeys who come together and become a family. “Monkey one Monkey two Monkey three/Monkey me Monkey he Monkey she/ Monkey love Monkey we Monkey be family….” “Turkey in the Straw,” one of my personal favorites, is a slowed down rendition of the original with a funky kind of groove.

Rounding out the album are some slower songs which make perfect lullabies and embody the love that Apple Apple was premised on. ‘Reflections,’ for example, was written while Keeth was out walking with his son, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning, to help him fall asleep. I think most parents should either relate to or remember this very vividly.

Apgar, along with the rest of The Harmonica Pocket contingent, create a rich environment that carries the message of love, acceptance, wonder and respect for the world around us. Apple Apple is sure to be enjoyed by the 0 – 5 crowd and their grown-ups. Without a doubt one of our favorite albums of the year so far. I encourage all of you to tempt your palate and take a bite out of this record. It will absolutely satisfy your “aural” taste buds.

Copies of the album are available at CDbaby.com and KidzMusic.com. Individual songs and album downloads can be found at the aforementioned sites as well as iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody.com, eMusic, Spotify and many other digital download stores.

You can also “look inside” the album here, find lyrics and read about the songs’ stories here. Highly Recommended.

Below you will find a clip for the reggae influenced “Happy Mother’s Day,” as well as, a video for the silly yet heroic tale of “Diaperman.”

“Happy Mother’s Day”

Diaperman [courtesy of YouTube]

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of the album for possible review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are based solely on my honest opinion.