Check this Out: The Happy Birthday EP – Kindiependent

51KCYmcyWYL._SL500_AA280_The obsession and excitement with becoming a big kid is undeniable and quite a force to be reckoned with, especially in my daughter’s case. It just so happens that Em will be turning 5 in January and she has been planning her next birthday party since she turned 4. All that is left is the music which, in our family, is the icing on the cake. In the past, I have carefully curated party mixes that included all of our favorite songs. But, they always lacked an actual birthday themed song. Until now! This time, I am excited to incorporate Kindiependent‘s first album, The Happy Birthday EP, into the mix. This six song birthday-themed EP channels the energy of the Beatles’ “Birthday Song” and pours it into a series of rock solid birthday jams that are certain to bring the festivities to a whole new level.

Kindiependent is a collective of kindie giants from the Pacific Northwest (Recess Monkey, The Not-Its!, The Harmonica Pocket, Johnny Bregar, Caspar Babypants and The Board of Education). Members of the collective meet regularly to share ideas, collaborate and hone their already finely tuned skills through creative exercises, such as the one that produced The Happy Birthday EP.

Co-written by members of Recess Monkey, The Not-Its!, The Harmonica Pocket and Johnny Bregar, The Happy Birthday EP was recorded at Bregar’s Brickyard Studio. Earlier this year, the groups engaged in a creative exercise where they drew names out of a hat to determine songwriting teams. Over the course of two days, the teams cranked out some pumped up party tunes. And, in true birthday party fashion, there was pizza to help fuel the creative fires of these talented kindie folk.

The Happy Birthday EP is packed with party fun for everyone. Parents will get a kick out of “Beautiful Mess” as it captures the chaos of a full throttle kiddie bash. Kids will get excited to add another candle on their birthday cakes as Sarah Shannon sings about becoming a big kid in “Four Candles.” Although, some parents may get a little teary-eyed (ah-hem) with the nostalgic references to earlier days of baby and toddlerhood (“When I was a baby I was really small/ I couldn’t even walk and I could barely crawl/ Mushy peas and carrots cause I didn’t have teeth/ Little tiny socks on the tips of my feet/ I had none/ I had one/ Then had two/ Then there’s three/ I’ve got four candles on my cake I’m a big kid now”). “Don’t Forget About My Birthday” sympathizes with birthdays that occur on or near major holidays while “Cupcake Revolution,” “Birthday Wish” and “Rock and Roll Birthday” may just spawn a kiddie mosh pit with their energetic power pop/punk elements. These three are the ones you’ll want to tie in with the cake eating portion of the party for sure!

Whether you are celebrating your own child’s birthday, a friend’s birthday, a pet’s birthday or even an unbirthday, The Happy Birthday EP is the perfect soundtrack to make your party a big success. It would also make a great addition to a goodie bag (although, you might just ignite a rock n’ roll birthday revolution). Highly recommended for ages 3 – 8.

Songs featured on The Happy Birthday EP can be requested on SiriusXM’s Kid’s Place Live and are available for digital download at numerous stores including iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby.

Check This Out: American Playground – Putumayo Kids

61C4EhMbbXLSince 1999, the fine folks at Putumayo Kids have been curating some of the most wonderful collections of world music, aiming to introduce children to other cultures through song.

American Playground, the group’s latest release, delivers classic American sing-alongs through a diverse array of styles. While many of the songs are familiar folk tunes, other genres such as blues, gospel, country and jazz are also represented.

Like a delicious slice of apple pie, American Playground, serves up time tested renditions of familiar tunes such as “This Land Is Your Land,” “This Little Light Of Mine,” “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain,” and “Oh, Susannah.”

Some of our favorite kindie artists are featured on American Playground starting with Johnny Bregar, who recorded a new version of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain” specifically for American Playground. Other artists like Elizabeth Mitchell, Dan Zanes and Randy Kaplan are also featured. I especially love the jazzy, upbeat “Blue Skies,” delivered by Texas based Country-western artist Aaron Watson (with Elizabeth McQueen). Watson’s and McQueen’s sunny vocals make you want to throw a picnic blanket under a shady tree, sip on some lemonade and soak up the fresh summer air.

“We All Need More Kindness In This World,” an original written by Guy Davis, delivers a wonderful message while capturing the essence of early American folk. Hearing Buck Howdy’s upbeat, country version of “You Are My Sunshine” breathes new life into a song that was introduced to me when I was a child and one that I have sung to Em since she was born. It’s also the perfect tempo for kicking up your heels and swingin’ around with a little partner or two.

Once again Putumayo Kids delivers a quality collection of songs. American Playground is filled with timeless classics that span generations. In addition to enjoying the sounds that were so influential in the history of American music, families who purchase the album can enjoy a colorful, star-spangled booklet containing 20 pages of information about each artist, along with the origin of each song. Recommended for all ages!

Take a listen to American Playground through Putumayo Kids’ Bandcamp widget below. You can also grab a copy from Amazon.

Note: Last year, Putumayo Kids announced the first-ever digital availability of selected recordings, including American Playground, available for purchase through the LeapFrog App Center. Additionally, those with satellite radio can enjoy The World Playground with Putumayo, featuring Putumayo Kids’ music, on Saturdays at 10 a.m. EST through Channel 78 (Kids Place Live).

Giveaway: The folks at Putumayo Kids have generously offered to give away a copy of this American Playground to one lucky reader.  Click here to win.

Check this out: ¡Fantastico! – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

LDFJB_FANTASTICO_WEBWhen I look through childhood photos and see my grandmother, I recall her singing to me in her own language. While I didn’t understand the words at first, repetition and the rich, steady rhythm of her voice compelled me to sing along. Naturally, my mother also sang those songs, sometimes accompanied by the piano as my sister and I gathered around her. This passage of song and tradition is something that still exists in my family today and is always revived when we get together. As I watch my own daughter take my place as the babe in my grandmother’s/mother’s arms, I recall those days fondly and am grateful to be able to share a piece of our history with her.

This is the feeling I get from listening to ¡Fantastico!, the first Spanish-language album by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. On a recent trip to visit family in Texas, Diaz reconnected with his Mexican heritage and was inspired by the experience of sharing it with his daughter, Ella. “Tres Ratones,” initially featured on last year’s highly acclaimed A Potluck, and included on ¡Fantastico!, was the first all Spanish track to come out of that trip.

¡Fantastico! also features one new song by Diaz. “La Vibora,” a quick paced dance tune, is a traditional Latin song which was sung to Diaz by his grandmother and mother when he was a child. The rest of the songs have been reworked and could easily be considered original. For example, “ABC is the Place To Be” appears as “Los Numeros.” Curious about the translation process and the making of this record, I had a chance to speak with Diaz who explained, “We worked with a producer in Texas, named Noe Benitez. He really helped tighten the translation part up as well. We wanted the Latino community to feel the songs’ authenticity but also wanted non-Spanish speakers to enjoy them and feel they could sing along.” As a fan of Diaz’s existing work, I can completely concur that this album is one your family will enjoy regardless of your mother tongue.

While many of the songs aren’t direct translations, we particularly enjoy listening to the English and Spanish versions together. Hearing the English words and understanding the story within the song gives us an idea of what the words mean in the Spanish versions. It’s an educational process that I love engaging in with my daughter even though she is able to follow along with the Spanish words just fine on her own. In fact, she prefers the Spanish versions at times, excited by the fact that she is learning and speaking a new language.

Although we have many favorites, “Tres Ratones” was and continues to be the reigning champion. It’s a fun song about a hungry cat and three mice. The song’s catchy chorus naturally encourages participation as the cat says “meow meow meow.” Other songs we dig are the surf rock beats of “Gato Astronata,” the retro-pop sweetness of Alisha Gaddis’s “uh oh’s” in “A Bailar” and the humorous banter between Diaz and his daughter in “¿Qué dices?” The latter, like its English counterpart, includes some fine scat singing by Diaz which is something my daughter loves to imitate. Randomly hearing “zom bom bom bom ba doba daba doombop boombada do bop” followed by “qué dices” from the mouth of a 4 year old is awesome!

¡Fantastico! is a colorful album steeped in tradition and a perfect reintroduction to the sweet sounds of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band. Moving from last year’s communal supper to an all out gran fiesta, Diaz and the crew succeed again in delivering hip, danceable tracks that are filled with undeniable charm and infectious pop melodies.

You can listen to and purchase ¡Fantastico! via the Bandcamp widget below, as well as Amazon and iTunes.

Check this out: Home of Song – Paul Spring

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Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, singer-songwriter Paul Spring makes his family music debut with the comforting sounds of Home of Song. Produced by Dean Jones and Joe Mailander (half of the Grammy winning duo, The Okee Dokee Brothers), Home of Song is a highly singable collection of songs will inspire a sense of imagination and adventure for listeners of all ages.

The most appealing aspect about Home of Song is Spring’s talent as a songwriter. With passion and enthusiasm, Spring delivers meaningful lyrics with much depth. Whether he is singing about the pouring rain, a beloved story or the cycles of the moon, Spring’s soulful voice shines with sincerity.

In addition to Spring’s ability to write illustrative lyrics, there is an undercurrent of love and appreciation for family that is woven into the fabric of this album. Although I typically don’t like to compare artists in terms of musicality, I find the sentiment behind Home of Song similar to Elizabeth Mitchell’s approach of incorporating family members and friends into her own music making process. Much like Mitchell, Spring is also accompanied by family members and friends who collectively add depth, dimension and meaning to the album’s makeup. Underscoring this point is the metaphorical title track, “Home of Song.” The lyrics, “Oh how often I think that melody was my mother/ rhythm my father/ keeping my steps in line/ and my brothers and sisters filled in the notes between us/ making a harmony to hold through time,” symbolize family unity in a beautiful way.

Spring invites listeners on a humorous stroll down memory lane as he sings about a washed up van from his childhood in “Sloppy Jaloppy.” While kids may not necessarily understand lyrics like “We’ll be going up and down like the Dow Jones and NASDAQ,” adult listeners are certain to smirk in acknowledgment of what feels like an inside joke. I can’t help but recall my own, similar childhood experience in which our old car broke down in the middle of a well traveled highway, interrupting our journey to the beach. As I hear Spring’s words, images from that time flash through my mind like pastel painted Polaroids.

Another lovely aspect of Home of Song is the celebration of nature. Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi provides fodder for songs like the sea-faring “Red Sky at Morning,” which taught us what a crow’s nest is. “Rain,” a refreshing tune that welcomes the pouring rain on a hot summer’s eve, is one that gets heavy rotation in our home. I particularly love the chord progression in the beginning of the song and the delicate accents of the piano as it mimics the sounds of droplets of water. There is also “Mississippi River,” a spelling game that honors the beauty of the river itself. The song has a nice tempo, smoothed out and slow enough for kids to follow along as Spring spells Mississippi letter by letter. Spelling Mississippi is a fun game for my 4 yr old and actually makes her feel quite accomplished as she continues to proudly spell it long after the song is over.

As a bookworm and someone who wanted to be Nancy Drew growing up, I thoroughly enjoy the way Spring enlivens classic works such as Peter Pan, Don Quixote and Sherlock Holmes, highlighting the love, heroism and camaraderie in each. The lyrics “What I read in my books/ I believe is true,” from the song “Don Quixote,” nicely reinforces the value of reading and the excitement it brings.

As much as I’d enjoy it, being the parent of a young child means that I don’t get to sit on the banks of a river, meditate on the beauty of nature or sit and read an exciting story while the afternoon drifts away. Thankfully, my daughter and I have Home of Song, an album that captures the essence of those feelings in a very real and harmonious way. They say home is where the heart is. In Paul Spring’s case, so is song. Highly recommended.

You can listen to samples from Home of Song through SoundCloud widget below. Purchases can be made through Paul Spring’s Official site, CDBaby, Amazon and iTunes. Make sure to check out the very entertaining video for “Peter Pan,” a groovy song which is a tribute to the kid in all of us. The song features Spring, The Okee Dokee Brothers and the Lost Boys.

Check This Out: Champions Of The Universe – Ratboy Jr.

51x98urmivL._SL500_AA280_A name like Ratboy Jr. may not immediately make you think of children’s music, but make no mistake, this band is fantastic!

Based out of the musically rich Hudson Valley (home to the likes of Dog On Fleas, Gustafer Yellowgold, Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower, Uncle Rock, Story Laurie), Ratboy Jr. consists of longtime friends Tim Sutton and Matt Senzatimore. On their second album, Champions of the Universe, co-produced with neighbor and Grammy award-winning producer Dean Jones, the duo kicks it up a notch from their debut, Smorgasboard, with a more polished sound and a few musical guests (Dean Jones, Dog On Fleas, Jason Sarubbi, Shane Kirsch, as well as Sutton’s wife, Cat, and their son, Elliot).

Champions of the Universe is a goodie bag of fun filled with clever lyrics, creative storytelling, entertaining rhymes and humorous riddles. Each song invites listeners on a journey to explore artful and abstract scenarios that aim to nurture a child’s imagination which, according to Sutton, “is where the magic happens.” As the mom of a 4 year old dressed as Supergirl for the past 12 days (“because I can fly and jump higher with my cape on, mom!”), I couldn’t agree more.

The album opens with “Bill” an adventurous tale about a rock named Bill who goes against the grain. The lyrics have a nice way of expressing that it’s ok follow your own path and find what makes you happy: Bill was a rock with his own brain/ He just changed the game/ He did what he felt was right/ Other rocks knew he might/ He still slides down some hills/ But sometimes he slides up/ It’s a rock and roll lifestyle/ Bill the rock with a big old smile. I can’t help but think of Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece” while listening to this song.

Moving on, Champions continues with some thought-provoking songs that speak directly to the inquiring mind of a child. “How To Eat A Cloud” floats along on a gastronomic journey suggesting what certain clouds might taste like (“stormy ones are scary but they also taste like cherry.”) “Upside Down,” a folksy pop tune, sung from a child’s perspective, questions what would happen if the world were upside down, i.e. “Would the fish fall out of the sea?/ would my pockets always be empty?”. I love when Sutton intones his own rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” for the song’s bridge.

Other songs celebrate organic ways of play. “High 5 Your Shadow,” reminiscent of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” promotes the idea that your shadow can be a fascinating friend while “Who Needs A Toy” transforms found objects, such as boxes and sticks (with a cautionary “just make sure you don’t poke your eye out“), into swords and rocket ships.

My daughter particularly enjoys the more interactive, quirkier songs like “Pretend Your Hand’s A Puppet,” which encourages movement, the Johnny Cash inspired “Guitar Pickin’ Chicken,” and “Backyard Camping,” an improvised camping extravaganza featuring some freestyle with members of Dog on Fleas.

While many of the songs on Champions of the Universe fall towards the quirkier side of the fold, the ideas these guys come up with are by no means contrived. The topics contained within the album are thoughts that have either been inspired by parenthood (since their debut, Sutton has become a father), their own childhood memories or simply what they think would make for interesting listening. They stand behind their music and put a ton of charisma and energy into each song. Like They Might Be Giants, Ratboy Jr. has the ability to make an interesting mark in the kindie scene. In a word (or two): they belong.

Champions of the Universe is available through all regular media outlets including Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby. You can also hear samples from the album at Ratboy Jr.’s official site. The album is just over 40 minutes and will appeal most to ages 4-8.

Below you can also view a video for “Guitar Pickin’ Chicken” and a video for “Worms” from Ratboy Jr.’s first album Smorgasboard, a Sesame Street inspired track that encourages love for those slimy, squirmy little friends that make rainy days more exciting. This video is perfect for little ones who feel it’s their job to get all the lost worms off the street and onto a nice patch of dirt they can call home.

Check It Out: Gaia She Knows b/w Here Comes Peter Cottontail – The Hipwaders

The single has taken on many forms over the years. From 45’s to cassettes, singles had their place in the music marketplace. I still remember rushing out to the store, eager to get my hands on the latest colorful cardboard bound cassette. One song on each side or a new song on one side and an extended or remixed version on the other.

Over the years, the novelty of a single release has worn off a bit, however, there are still some artists that enjoy cranking them out. And boy am I glad! Bay Area kindie rock trio, The Hipwaders, recently released a CD bundle containing some great new tracks that celebrate the upcoming Spring season.

Gaia She Knows b/w Here Comes Peter Cottontail is a CD bundle that contains three songs: “Gaia She Knows,” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and the extended version of “Gaia She Knows.” The CD is packaged up with vibrant cover art by the talented Brian Clarke.

artworks-000043195888-mym1og-t200x200“Here Comes Peter Cottontail”

Just in time for Easter, The Hipwaders deliver a swingin’ rendition of Gene Autry’s classic, “Peter Cottontail.” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is the perfect companion for your Easter related activities. This bouncy “tail” is filled with rockabilly style that will make you want to kick off your shoes and do a little (sock) hopping of your own. Always upbeat, the Hipwaders deliver straight rockin’ grooves while introducing us to one of the coolest bunnies in town as he hip hip hoppa hippa hip hip hop’s down the bunny trail. Get your Easter baskets ready, kids!

You can listen to the song via the SoundCloud widget below.


226936_10151490438215708_1350393429_n“Gaia She Knows”

Whereas the aforementioned single has an uptempo arrangement, “Gaia She Knows,” is a slowed down, groovier sort of tune with an endearing backstory and inspiring message. In fact, the song came about when a six year-old girl named Gaia who, according to The Hipwaders, approached lead singer Tito Uquilles after a show and “wanted to know if The Hipwaders had any songs about saving the earth and/or not using pesticides. Apparently, she had just attended a school assembly for Earth Day and was interested in the topic. Tito thought the idea of a young girl named Gaia (named after The Earth Goddess!) wanting to save the planet was too good of an idea to pass up.”

The song features soft vocals by Uquilles in accompaniment with some strings and pedal steel guitar accents giving the song a nice pop/country blend. “Gaia She Knows” is the perfect companion for Earth Day and a wonderful way to talk with your kids about conscious, green living. In fact, upon hearing this song, my 4 year old decided that she wanted to go home and “clean up the streets to help the planet right now!” Which, we did. I love being inspired by music and through their thoughtful lyrics, The Hipwaders provide a forum for families to work together. Although this song should be played for all ages, the lyrics will most likely resonate among ages 4/5 and up.

You can hear samples from the entire album as well as purchase the tracks digitally via The Hipwaders official site.

Check this Out: The Not-Its – KidQuake!

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The Not-Its are back with another musically sound and sonically charged album filled with raw, kinetic energy. As the name implies, KidQuake! contains properties that will invoke lots of sudden movement. In other words, get ready to body rock!

In addition to being a part of the wildly talented Kindiependent collective, The Not-Its are made up of veteran indie musicians (lead singer, Sarah Shannon was the former singer of 90’s Sub Pop band Velocity Girl), Danny Adamson (rhythm guitar), Tom Baisden (lead guitar), Jennie Helman (bass player) and Michael Welke (former drummer of Harvey Danger) who channel their rock/pop/punk sensibilities into making rockin’ kid tunes. They also happen to be experienced parents, with a total of 10 children amongst themselves, ranging from ages 2 through 9, which makes for highly relatable topics the whole family will enjoy!

Kicking off the album is the title track, “Kidquake!” a thunderous tune which gives meaning to the driving force behind the frenetic energy that emanates from little bodies. As the lyrics proclaim “we may be small but we are strong” and “there’s an energy/we gotta set it free/come on every boy and girl,” “KidQuake!” could very well be the new “kid power” anthem. Or perhaps a call for a kiddie flash mob?

Parents will get a kick out of “Temper Tantrum,” which pretty much speaks for itself and “Busy,” a ska jam that reaches out to parents, acknowledging that life can be hectic while offering the suggestion that sometimes we need to slow down. Resounding horns add a nice touch throughout the song and act as alarm clocks in the video.

The Not-Its encourage staying active with “Let’s Skateboard,” a song that lists out all kinds of skateboarding tricks, and “Walk or Ride,” a song that encourages taking in the beauty of Mother Nature by using our feet to get from place to place.

What Miss Em and I like to rock out to the most is “Tarantula Funeral,” in which The Not-Its so appropriately bid a righteous farewell to a beloved classroom pet. The song has an extremely catchy chorus with blending harmonies and smart lyrics. In fact, because of Bob the Tarantula’s biological misfortune, and the curious mind of my spider loving 4 year old, we were able to bond while learning some science.

“Operation Cooperation” is a motivational song with a good message about teamwork and getting along with new friends in school while “Participation Trophy” celebrates hard work and trying your best even if it means scoring for the other team or winning 27th place in chess club.

Listeners will also enjoy songs about games with songs like “Full Tilt,” which refers to pinball mastery and “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” a perfect theme song for the classic childhood game as the lyrics exclaim “One for the money/ Two for the show/ Three pumps to get ready/ You go now throw!”

Wrapping up the album is the endearing tune, “The Not-Its Love You,” a reassuring message of love and a reminder that The Not-Its’ produce music from the heart, while uplifting the spirits of their audience.

The Not-Its take their music and their image seriously and deliver on both. Between the colorful artworkJump1
by Grammy-nominated Invisible Creature (Target, Nike, Nickelodeon) and the ladies’ vibrant pink tutus, you can immediately guess that you are about to have some serious fun! KidQuake! is another success for The Not-Its and one that every family deserves to hear. It really just rocks! Highly recommended for ages 3 and up! Tutus suggested, but not required.

KidQuake! is available through The Not-Its store , as well as Amazon and iTunes.

You can also listen to clips from the album through the Bandcamp widget below.


Tarantula_High-ResBelow is a video for “Tarantula Funeral,” which was made by guitarist, Tom Baisden’s, elementary school class. In addition to being an awesome musician, Baisden is also an elementary school teacher for children with special needs.

[Video courtesy of The Not-Its via YouTube]