Some bands don't really hit their groove until they do a kids' album. Scoff if you will, but some groups have made kids' music a full-on enterprise, grooming millions of young ears into future die-hard music lovers. Forget Raffi, we're talking the Shins, They Might Be Giants, and of Montreal. In celebration of the upcoming Kindiependent showcase next weekend at the Northwest Folklife Festival, here's a list of the best albums, projects, and bands just for kids.
9. Snack Time, Barenaked Ladies. In what was only a matter of time, 2008 saw the release of lovably goofy Canadian band Barenaked Ladies' Snack Time, a 24-track long beast featuring friends like Janeane Garofalo, Lyle Lovett, and Sarah McLaughlin calling out their favorite snacks on the album's title track. Above video "Pollywog in a Bog" features what appears to be a puppet swamp rat rapping very Shaggy-esque over a tadpole's transformation. Entertaining AND educational!
8. The Marley Legacy. Both Ziggy and Bob can count a kids' album in their canon--there's Family Time by Ziggy Marley and B Is for Bob, 12 acoustic re-imaginings of some of Marley's most beloved hits. (Sharing music is one thing; Reverb suggests you wait until Junior gets a bit older to share a family spliff).
7. The Johnny Cash Children's Album. Released in 1975, this is a must-have for any man-in-black fan, or if you want your kid to grow up with any kind of discriminating musical taste at all.
6. Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George, Jack Johnson. Who better than carefree playboy Jack Johnson--along with like-sounding friends G. Love and Ben Harper--to provide the soundtrack for the whimsical adventures of the world's most lovable monkey? Plus his super-sweet cover of The White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" is less ominous and thoroughly more charming than the original.
5. Yo Gabba Gabba!, Music Is Awesome! This TV show on Nick Jr. named for the Ramones is a tastemaker of kids' music, with a soundtrack and two albums (Music Is Awesome! Vol. 1 and 2) featuring the music and jingles of artists such as Chad Vangaalen, of Montreal, the Shins, Biz Markie, Mark Kozelek, I'm From Barcelona, Cornelius, Rahzel, and Cromeo. Childhood fail: All I had was Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.
4. They Might Be Giants. Another quirky pop band perfectly suited for kids' music, TMBG's four children's albums contain such hits as "Speed and Velocity" and "High Five," a groovy number that sounds like an Everything But the Girl b-side.
3. Twistable, Turnable Man, A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein. This compilation of Silverstein's songs--you know, of A Boy Named Sue fame--lovingly covered by bands like My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Bobby Bare Jr., and Lucinda Williams is a well-crafted tribute to the eccentric, twisted mind of a man who started off as an illustrator for Playboy but somehow found his niche writing children's books and songs.
2. Birds, Beasts, Bugs & Fishes Little & Big: Animal Folk Songs, Pete Seeger. The Seeger songbook is a staple in elementary schools across the states, with songs like "Turn, Turn, Turn" and "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?", leaving an indelible mark on American culture at large. Here, his wonder for all walks of life is captured in classics like "Frog Went A-Courting," "The Teency, Weency Spider," and "I Know An Old Lady (Who Swallowed a Fly)". If you're looking for a kid-friendly Pete Seeger introduction, look no further!
1.Caspar Babypants. Caspar Babypants is Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America. Billed in USA Today as "sweet, simple, and incredibly smart minimalistic music for your mini-me" Ballew's three albums, Here I Am!, More, Please!, and This is Fun! are exactly that--stripped down, peppy songs in the token silly pop-rock vein of POTUSA.