I still remember the first time I introduced my daughter to her shadow. It was on the swings and I told her that her shadow is swinging just as high as she is. She thought it was the most amazing thing and her shadow continues to be part of our pack today.
Tim Sutton, frontman for Ratboy Jr., was inspired in the same way when he wrote “High 5 Your Shadow.” Upon seeing his own son giving a high five to his shadow on the wall, the song was born.
“High 5 Your Shadow” hits the nail on the head with the lyrics, “your shadow/ is your friend/ and your friends are friends with your shadow,” because whether it’s real friends or a wooden dog that my daughter pulls on a string, everyone has a shadow and we can all dance together.
From their most recent release, Champions of the Universe, Ratboy Jr. presents the video for “High 5 Your Shadow,” which so accurately conveys the joys of shadow play. There’s even a little science wedged in their for extra credit.
Check it out and then go find your shadow. Or make one of your own.
Dean Jones, multi talented kindie wonder man, is putting out his second children’s album on May 14th called When The World Was New. It’s going to be quite fantastic, although I wouldn’t expect any less from the recent Grammy winner (Dean won a 2012 Grammy for producing Can You Canoe? by The Okee Dokee Brothers).
“Snail Mail,” directed by Tim Sutton from Ratboy Jr., is a funk filled motivational piece (or as Sutton describes it: funk with a disco sweater on) that reinforces the benefits of being a good pen pal. It’s got a nice groove, a crazy catchy hook and some great lyrics, including my favorite in which Jones suggests doing “a little doodle direct from your noodle.”
How do you not want to get all creative, slap a stamp on an envelope and boogie on down to the post office right this minute?
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.