Free Music Download: Summer Sounds Playlist

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We love playlists any time of year but there are certain times where it feels like the season dictates the need for certain kinds of sounds. Summer is one of them. Every summer, we look forward to creating a soundtrack that echoes the feeling of warmer weather, beach days, outdoor concerts, nature walks and road trip adventures. Even when the hot, sticky weather calls for more time spent indoors, we reach for things that are upbeat, breezy and remind us to just take it easy.

Thanks to our friends at Sugar Mountain PR, the following playlist will help kick-start your summer soundtrack. Starting today, the playlist is available for download through May 25, 2016.

Like what you hear? Click on the artist’s name to visit their site and learn more. Be sure to also check their shows/schedule pages to see if you can catch a summer concert in your town.
Frances England – “Explorer of the World” (Explorer of the World) 
Charity and the JAMband – “Sing a Summer Song” (Earth)
Raffi – “Garden Song” (Owl Singalong)
Aaron Nigel Smith – “Take Time In Life” (ONE)
123 Andrés – “Fly, Fly” (Arriba Ababjo)
Alphabet Rockers – “Players’ Life” (The Playground Zone – coming soon
Sugar Free Allstars – “Upside Down Town” (Self-titled)
The Not-Its! – “Bird On A Wire” (Are You Listening?)
The Whizpops – “Pika” (Ranger Rick’s Trail Mix Vol. 1 – out May 20, 2016)
Red Yarn – “I Had A Rooster” (Wake Up & Sing)
Okee Dokee Brothers – “One Horsepower” (Saddle Up)
Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could – “One Day By The Riverside” (Press Play – coming soon)

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).  

 

Sneak Peek Premiere: “Ballad for a Beatboxer” – Frances England

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On April 1, 2016 Frances England will release her fifth family album, Explorer of the World, which encourages families to experience life by connecting more with their surroundings. Prior to making the album, England spent two years observing and capturing the sights and the sounds of her neighborhood and local areas of San Francisco, CA, with a handheld recorder. Some of the sounds were then integrated into many of the songs on the album.

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.36.06 PMToday I am excited to share a video teaser and audio clip with you for the track “Ballad for a Beatboxer,” which features vocal percussionist Carlos Aguirre.

The song’s arrangement contains England’s soft melodies laced with Aguirre’s hip hop inspired beats. The two flow very well together, and the style is a welcome addition to England’s repertoire, which has steadily expanded into more rootsy, rhythmic territory. Aguirre really infuses the song with so much of what leaves me in awe about beatboxers: The musical landscape they create is borne from what they feel inside their heart and soul. They are the instrument and the musical language they speak is so genuinely unique. England eloquently expresses this sentiment as she sings  “And I can feel all the love he puts into those beat, he gives them to the people / He makes the world all his own / Where the music doesn’t stop / And the beat goes… 

England and Aguirre have worked together for many years at StageWrite, a nonprofit in San Francisco, CA, that teaches literacy through playwriting workshops. England helps attending kids write songs for their plays and Aguirre helps with the playwriting and expression exercises through beatboxing.

In addition to the video teaser you, you can take a listen to the full track, as well as other tracks from the album through the Soundcloud widget below.

For updates on the new album, new videos and related news, stay in touch with England through her official site, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, and don’t miss the release of Explorer of the World on April 1, 2016It’s a stunning, magnificent, hip, inspiring album and I can’t wait to share more of it with you! 

Check out my full album review which also includes music videos and family activity suggestions inspired by the album.

Behind and Beyond the music 2015 edition: Stories, features, interviews, guests posts from 2015.

Friends and random acquaintances routinely ask me, “Why do you listen to kids’ music?” I’ve asked myself the same question many times.

In poking through my Top 20 albums of 2015, an answer snuck up on me: the joy of music discovery. To be presented with and to explore new music is exhilarating – like discovering a whole new color or flavor. Sharing this passion with my daughter Emily (now 7 years old) is great fun and such a bonding experience. She is growing, and the music is growing with her.

For me, music discovery is more than just the songs at face value. It’s uncovering the stories behind the music; it’s connecting with the music makers and understanding the magical, teeny bits of real life, of real people that make the album art come alive. The artists that make up the kids’ music genre are welcoming and supportive and it’s been a pleasure to dive into what drives their creativity and thus, bring their stories to life. Continue reading

Check This Out: Blink of An Eye – Frances England

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Since I became a parent, there have been so many times where I wish I could siphon out my memories at the end of the day and have them automatically recorded. I regularly feel compelled to stop time, and thankfully I have successfully done so with the click of my camera’s button. As my daughter got older and moved into a busier phase of her life – walking, running, jumping, biking, – life seemed to move faster than I could keep up with. Frances England‘s 2013 release, Blink of an Eye, has invoked great nostalgia, reminding me of my obsession with creating memories.

England has been recording gentle, acoustic melodies that capture the wonderment of childhood as it appears and is felt through the perspective of a child. Since her 2007 debut, Fascinating Creatures, each song has consistently been delivered with beautiful emotion, winning over the hearts of many grown-up listeners, as well as kids.

Blink of An Eye is filled with songs that create a vision of togetherness. My favorite tracks, “Day You Were Born”, “The Sun Will Shine Again” and “Salt Water Swirl,” gorgeously illustrate the awestruck relationship and tender bond between parent(s) and child(ren).

Sometimes music provokes a physical and emotional reaction and this album strikes a chord in both categories. The warmth of England’s soft voice is akin to the feeling of the sun shining on your face as you are cradled, buoyantly, in a lush, grassy field.

Typically, England’s sound is acoustic. For Blink of an Eye, England recruited the masterful Dean Jones which is made obvious by the “kitchen sink” rootsy and eclectic accompaniment on many of the songs (most notably “Blink of An Eye” and another one of my favorites, “Move Like A Saturday Night”). Elizabeth Mitchell and Molly Ledford of Lunch Money also lend their talents in ways that enhance England’s unique sound, ultimately creating achingly beautiful harmonies. “Bicycle Built For Two” is a perfectly paired collaboration between Ledford and England.

England’s fourth album to date, Blink of An Eye, captures the sentimentality and sweetness of being a parent. Just as a mirage offers temporary wonderment, so do the fleeting moments of childhood. Thankfully, England reminds us of those precious memories in this album.

Blink of An Eye is available through England’s site, CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. You can also sample clips from this album (along with previous releases and her awesome artwork!) at her official site.

Bonus: Below are some beautifully produced videos from the album. Get ready for some goosebumps!

Sun Will Shine Again” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Day You Were Born” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Tell Me It All” [Courtesy of Frances England via YouTube]

Happy Valentine’s Day! Playlist + videos + free downloads = Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! And like any other holiday, or really any day, your ears deserve musical treats. So, below you will find a Spotify playlist containing some tracks we are spinning. Since not all of the songs are on Spotify, you can find additional tracks below the playlist in the form of videos, links, and FREE DOWNLOADS!

There’s a whole lotta love here so get ready to turn it up!

Dog On Fleas – “I must be a genius” from Buy One Get One Flea

Dean Jones, check. Trombone, check. Adorable furry friend, check! I’m sold!
Bonus: The good people of Dog On Fleas would like to share their love with fans of all ages by offering a flea, er, free download. If you download this track in February, and send Dog On Fleas a message with your email address, they will send you a bonus track!! As in… buy one, get one flea. Or you can go to their Facebook page and message them (and like them while you are there). 

Laura Doherty – “In a Heartbeat” 
I love the disco break in the middle of this song. The beats are good, Laura’s voice is gorgeous and the photos breathe love.

Alex Mitnick of Alex & The Kaleidescope Band has been a dad for almost a year now. In awe of his son, Miles, Alex was inspired to write the song “Feelin’ Fine” to celebrate Miles’ first Valentine’s Day. It’s also a sneak peek into Alex’s upcoming album entitled Love Songs For My Baby. As a special gift for Valentine’s Day, Alex is also offering a free download of this song.

Mariana Iranzi – “Valentine’s Day Song”
A bi-lingual valentine’s song with bold color, fun puppets and a beautiful translation.
Lyrics translation:
“I have a heart so big like the sun
beats like a drum
I have a heart without sorrow nor resentment
sing like the nightingale
I have a heart open like a flower
dance with emotion
I have a heart full of hope
I want to give you all my love”

Poochamungas – Valentine’s Day
I unfortunately can’t embed the player here but I can tell you that the song is a fun one and the tone accurately expresses the experience of spending time making cards on Valentine’s Day. http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_19910031

Singled Out: “Blink of an Eye” – Frances England

Frances England PromoImageFrances England has a new family album coming out later this summer and her new single, “Blink of an Eye,” is a sneak preview into the wonder of what’s to come.  The symbolism captured in this song, accompanied by soft, acoustic notes can only be described as harmonious, delicate and exquisite.  Can’t wait to hear more!