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

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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Taking the Kid to Work – Guest post by Vered Benhorin of Baby In Tune

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Vered Benhorin of Baby In Tune has been featured here on Kids Can Groove before and it’s always refreshing to hear what she has to say. Her recent album, Hello My Baby, released earlier this year (and winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award), still offers a sense of comfort and support for me as a parent. This is in no small part due to the fact that Vered is regularly talking to and listening to what families through her workshops and classes. She also explores her work in her own life as a mom of three.

During the production of Hello My Baby, Vered was pregnant with her third child. This presented her with a unique opportunity that brought a dynamic perspective into her work. In today’s guest post, Vered writes about her experience with her daughter when they traveled across the country to celebrate the release of Hello My Baby. Though the below post largely chronicles her experience with her baby, Vered also touches upon what I grapple with a lot – my identity as a mom, and my identity in a greater sense related to my profession/work and my personal ambitions. It’s a delicate balance and it’s reassuring to know that others feel the same way. Vered is a no BS writer. I love how she shares her thoughts honestly and with a sense of humor, which is an essential tool for parenting.

Visit Baby In Tune to learn more and read additional posts by Vered. If you are in NYC you can find info on how to attend/hold a workshop or class, as well as view videos of her in action.


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Last April I went on a west coast tour. Like a rock star I strapped on my guitar, packed my amp, my microphone, and my cutest dresses. I also packed diapers, a carseat, a stroller, bottles, endless onesies, rattles, snacks, and wipes. A little less like a rockstar I trekked through the halls of the airport wondering what I had done.

I decided to take a 5 month old roadie because leaving her with my husband and two sons was not an option. Somehow it also didn’t seem like an option NOT to do the tour. I had just released my second album for families and wanted to get it out there. But anyone who has a baby knows that while jetlag is an annoyance for grown ups on their own, it is hell on earth with kids.

So every night as we played together in the dark at 3am I kicked myself for being hard-headed, overly motivated, unrealistic. But as we fell back asleep snuggling together in the cold AirBnB bed I held my little portable heater and felt her sweet breath on me, the breath of life itself, and we fell asleep smiling.

As I ran out at the end of shows to nurse her and lugged her carseat from place to place I felt annoyed and exasperated. And as I looked into her eyes and she flashed me a smile between shows I felt energized to do the next, and the next.

For me, having a third baby almost felt like a professional decision. I rationalized that I HAD to have the baby in order to give me material for another album. I had to experience a baby again in order to gather more first hand research for my classes and feel more inspired. I know that sounds a little crazy – having a baby for professional reasons? Normally a baby is nothing but an obstacle.

unnamedI feel lucky that my career has been able to develop with my life choices. As a single woman I wrote about romance and existential angst. As a mom my songs became about my experience as a parent and my perception of how my babies felt. I was also able to implement my studies in music therapy and psychology to help parents and teach them how to use music to bond with their babies. My life as a mom integrates really well with my life as a therapist/musician, but there is no perfect union.

To push my luck, I took my daughter with me to a bunch of workshops that were with babies her age. As a group leader my job is to facilitate discussion, be very aware of the group’s emotions and be able to support them through music. With my baby there at times I felt like I was less available to really listen fully to the group members. And yet at the same time I could identify completely and that helped me bring in the right songs, ideas and exercises for each class. Even in the most seemingly perfect situation the needs of the child conflict with the needs of the job.

photo 1So now that my baby is 10 months old I look back and ask myself – has she actually helped me professionally? I think the answer is the same answer any mom would give. Yes, she has inspired me. She has broadened my perspective in so many ways, and has contributed to my creativity, both as a therapist and a songwriter. But when I am with her I don’t want to be working. I don’t even want to be writing a song. Most of the time I just want to be hanging out, watching her play, following her lead, mirroring her vocals.

Every now and then it all comes together. That’s when she sings with me on the subway on our way to a group, or she inspires a new song (stay tuned for the song about our west coast tour) , or she teaches me something new about what babies need at each age. In those moments I am so happy that I have the chance to take my kid to work and even to make my work about my kid, even if she adds a whole lot more work.

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.

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

Summer Songs

It’s heating up here on the West Coast and we’ve been spending alot of time in the car searching for cooler places.  As such, we have been racking up a list of some summer songs that take our minds to a better place and off the scorching introduction to summer.

Below is a Spotify playlist of just some of our favorites.  It includes old and new tunes we hope you’ll enjoy.

KidQuake! – The Not-Its! from KidQuake!
The Ground – Underbirds from Underbirds
The Seven Cs – Recess Monkey from Deep Sea Diver
Sailing – Ratboy Jr. from Champions of the Universe
A Bailar – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from ¡fantastico!
Go! – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Bikeride (Bonus Track) – Vered from Good Morning My Love
Lazy Raisins – Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke from Pleased To Meet You
Big Wheel – The Pop Ups from Outside Voices
Bully Bully – Shine and the Moonbeams from Shine Your Shine
Sunshine Through My Window – Play Date from Imagination
We Just Wanna Have Fun – Milkshake from Got a Minute?
The Way It Goes – Grenadilla from Can’t Wait
Yes, We Have Rhythm – Lunch Money from Silly Reflection
Little Cloud (feat. Rachel Loshak) – Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights from Bandwagon
I Go – Mariana Iranzi from Hola Hello
Beautiful Mess – Kindiependent from The Happy Birthday EP
Turn Around – Cat Doorman from Songbook
Rain – Paul Spring from Home of Song

What We Like: October Playlists

Our home is constantly filled with music.  It keeps us sane and often helps ease us into our days and nights.  We have been listening to alot of great music lately, both old and new, and I thought I would start to share some of it with you on as much as possible.

Additionally, since naptime has become non-existent, we’ve really been trying to take some “quiet time” in the middle of the day.  Music is a major part of making that happen.  Chilled out music = chilled out toddler which = chilled out mommy.

So, this week I am publishing 2 playlists.  The first is called October Fun Part 1 containing lots of fun jams that are useful for really anytime that is not “quiet time,” at least in our house.  The second one is called October Slow Jams which is a bunch of slower songs perfect for anytime of day that calls for a little unwinding (or easing into if you haven’t had your morning pick-me-up yet).

So, without further adieu, I present to you October Fun Part 1 (the first list turned out to be really big so this month might have more than one list) and  October Slow Jams.   You will find a mix of songs both old and new in this playlist.  Also please note that if an artist is not on Spotify, they won’t appear in the playlist.  Feel free to listen to the playlists as they are ordered or on shuffle or both.  Mix it up however you’d like.

I also urge you to visit each of these artists’ websites and either buy or download their music.  You can do that by simply clicking on the links next to each song below.

October Fun Part 1

Fanga Alafia – from Welcome to the Village, Aaron Nigel Smith’s first release with One World Chorus.  Proceeds from the sale of this album will benefit the Cura Orphanage in Kenya, Africa.
Bright Clear Day – Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family (Go Waggaloo)
Afraid of Heights – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Sunshine – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
Eleanor The Elegant Elephant – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
In A Timeout Now – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
Germs – Ozomatli (OzoKidz)
I Am a Paleontologist – They Might Be Giants (Here Comes Science)
Make Me – Big Bang Boom (Because I Said So!)
Tickle Monster – Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys (Bubble Ride)
Green Beans Everywhere – Hullabaloo (Raise a Ruckus)
The Shark FighterSenorita Mariposa – Mister G (Chocolalala)
Sol Nal – Elena Moon Park (Rabbit Days and Dumplings)
15 tracks, 44 minutes

October Slow Jams

Bare Feet – Harmonica Pocket (Apple Apple)
Merry -Go-Round – Elizabeth Mitchell (Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie)
Mother Nature’s Son – Aaron Nigel Smith & One World Chorus (Welcome to the Village)
Underneath the Rainbow – Kira Willey (Kings & Queens of the Forest)
Even Bugs Are Sleeping – Caspar Babypants (HOT DOG!)
Time To Fly – Hot Peas ‘n Butter (Catchin’ Some Peazzz)
Goodnight Little Arlo (Goodnight Little Darlin’) – Charlie Hope (Keep Hope Machine Running: Songs of Woddy Guthrie)
Powder Blue Reprise – Renee and Jeremy (It’s A Big World)
Listen to the Horses – Raffi (Quiet Time)
Green Green Rocky Road – Randy Kaplan (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie)
All the Pretty Little Horses – Laurie Berkner (Whaddya Think of That)
You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles – Lunch Money (Original Friend)
Catch the Moon
 – Elizabeth Mitchell & Lisa Loeb (For the Kids Too)
Time – Johnny Bregar (My Neighborhood)
Sleep – Vered (Good Morning My Love)
15 tracks, 42 minutes