Time to Hit the Road!

It’s that time of year when families are packing up their SUVs and heading to destinations near and far. Whether you’re driving a couple of towns over to go camping or taking that long road trip to Disney World, this playlist, put together by the folks at Sugar Mountain PR, is the perfect accompaniment to any car ride. Filled with fresh new singles as well as some favorites from 2017, this summer-centric playlist is filled with fun road trip tunes. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Jessie Baylin – “It’s the Summertime”
Kira Willey – “Brand New Day”
Best Coast – “Cats and Dogs”
Hot Peas N Butter – “Big World Kid”
Ants Ants Ants – “Six Pickup Sticks”
Gunnar Madsen – “Divine Bovine”
Splash and Bubbles – “One Big Ocean”
The Bazillions – “Summer’s Here”
Justin Roberts – “Lemonade”
Lucky Diaz – “Paletero Man”
Lisa Loeb – “Inch Worm”
Sara Lovell – “Wild is Everywhere”

Full STEAM (or is it STEM) Ahead!

There are so many different learning styles. Some children learn best by reading things. Some learn best by seeing things. Some by doing things. Sometimes a combination of these. And then there are those of us who learn best from music. I’m a member of that last group. I like to think of those in my age group as The School House Rock generation. We are those kids who spent Saturday mornings learning about science, math, grammar and more – all set to music that was so catchy, we can still sing all the words to “I’m Just a Bill” and “Conjunction Junction.”  Over the years, I’ve often thought if all of my school subjects had been set to music, they would still be in my brain alongside the lyrics to every song from my teen years. And that’s where the three albums below come in.

As we all know, there is a great emphasis on STEM education in our schools. But sometimes, if you don’t have the most analytical brain or that much of an interest in these subject areas, it’s hard to remember all of the concepts. And that is the beauty of these albums. Each album takes a different approach to STEM subjects and each employs different musical styles, but they all set the STEM concepts to music in a manner that will have kids learning without even realizing it.

 

 

First up, the duo of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer mark their 35th album collaboration with Zoom a Little Zoom! A Ride Through Science. In this collection Fink and Marxer create contemporary arrangements of 10 songs that were written by Hy Zaret, composed by Lou Singer and released in 1961 as part of the educational collection, Ballads for the Age of Science.  With this modern update songs that cover topics such as what makes lightning, the constellations, what makes an insect an insect and gravity are allowed to shine in a way that will appeal to today’s young listeners. 

 

 

Kidz STEM Songz is more than just a compilation of songs, it is two full albums and a DVD of music videos. Collected and compiled by children’s music artist Dan Crow and his partners at KidzMusic Records, the first CD in this box set is Crow’s 2016 album of STEM focused songs, Concoctions. The five songs on this album cover simple math concepts, technology and the fact that science is all around us. The album also includes five karoake tracks of these songs to encourage kids to sing along. The second album in this set is KidzMusic’s STEAM. The 15 songs on this album cover topics from the genius of Einstein to botany. Each track is performed by a varied group of children’s artist ranging from Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band to Jonathan Sprout to Eric Ode and Danny Weinkauf. This box set is definitely a one of a kind.

 

 

Finally, enter the world of STEM with Giants of Science by the dynamic duo The Pop Ups. On this, their fifth album, Brooklyn-based musicians Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein let their songwriting and performing talents loose on ten new songs. A very high production value makes each of these tracks ready for play on the radio or TV. In fact, listeners of SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live will already be familiar with the fun, question-filled tune, “How Do We Know.” Covering everything from shadows and inventors to space and time, The Pop Ups unique style of music will keep family members of all ages engaged and asking for more.

Hand in Hand Performed by Suzi Shelton

You know when you listen to a Suzi Shelton album you’re in for a good time and Hand in Hand is no exception. A joy to listen to from beginning to end, Shelton’s latest album showcases her own brand of upbeat pop music filled with feel-good melodies and catchy lyrics. Each song is moderately paced allowing listeners to catch every word making each tune highly singable, while the arrangements are sophisticated yet simple enough to allow a variety of instruments (saxophone, electric guitar, trombone) to shine.

Several of the tracks on Hand in Hand would work well in storytime or early childhood programming. The opening song, “Put Your Hands in the Air,” is a great movement song that is performed fast enough to hold the attention of the young participants, but slow enough for them to catch the instructions that take them from making a joyful sound to stomping their feet to jumping up and down. “Ladybugs” could be made into a fun, interactive song using flannel board pieces, ladybugs on sticks, etc. as the participants count down from five to one in this jazzy version of the traditional rhyme. The tune “Blue Fin” would be fun to use with scarves as different colored “fins” are swimming in the water.

Additional highlights include the very poppy “Never Let You Go,” the island vibe of “River Come Down” and “Raindrop” which incorporates a fantastic new version of “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.” Much like most of the songs on this album,”The Grass is Always Greener,” a duet with GRAMMY winner and former Sprout TV host Tim Kubart, will have listeners singing and smiling along.

Hand in Hand is a true delight that should not be missed!

High Five! Performed by Laura Doherty

I have been a fan of Laura Doherty since I first heard her charming album Shining Like a Star (2011). From the very beginning, her ability to craft relatable lyrics set to developmentally appropriate tempos spoke to her experience as an early childhood educator, starting with her time as the director of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms program. With each album Doherty has honed her craft as a songwriter and performer resulting in High Five!, her best album to date.

Coming in at a brief 27 minutes, Doherty packs a lot of fun and musical talent into the 10 songs in this collection. Her signature folk-pop style shines along with the light, airy melodies and catchy lyrics of songs that cover a wide variety of topics including – the first day of school, making friends, lucky charms, different types of pasta and Paulette the Purple Dragonette. Wonderful, complex instrumentations support but never overwhelm Doherty’s lovely soprano. A perfect example being the title song, “High Five.” Featuring a really funky groove, this tune lets the brass section shine while Doherty encourages listeners to get up and move while trying out dances like the Locomotion and The Twist.

Other highlights include the earworm song of the record, “Muddy Puddles” (I’m pretty sure I’ll be singing that chorus in my sleep), Doherty’s duet with mutli-GRAMMY nominee Justin Roberts on “Can’t Wait to Turn 8” and the really touching final track, “Wonderful 1.”

Laura Doherty’s albums are the best kind of children’s music – lyrics are sung from the point of view of a child, songs are short enough to use in programs and storytimes, and the tunes are so catchy and well-produced that parents won’t go crazy listening to them again and again. High Five! is a must-have for libraries and family listening!

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Tour Guide from Cheri Magill

Released on May 4, Tour Guide is a gorgeous ode to motherhood with all of its ups and downs. Written and performed by Cheri Magill, the 30 minutes of music on this album capture those moments that drive a mom crazy like the Legos you step on everytime you turn around and the TV shows you have to watch that can only appeal to the under six set, as well as the joys of being a parent like the cuddles in the morning and the strength that a child instills in a mother. The theme of unconditional love flows throughout the collection, tying everything together. Rich musical arrangements support Magill’s lovely solo voice which is often reminiscent of Sara Bareilles. Her lyrics paint beautiful vignettes from the daily lives of a mother and a child and will touch the hearts of everyone who listens. While mothers are the target audience for Tour Guide, anyone who has ever acted in the role of a parent will find a deep connection to the songs on this album. Just lovely.

Take a listen to the title track, “Tour Guide,” below.

 

Out Today! La Luna performed by 123 Andrés

For fans of 123 Andrés, Friday the 13th is anything but unlucky! Today marks the release of the new album, La Luna. Filled with lush instrumentations and gorgeous vocals, Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, the husband and wife duo behind 123 Andrés, have hit a new high with this rich collection that takes listeners on an imaginary trip to South America.

Eleven of the twelve songs are performed in Spanish and include a well considered combination of originals, traditional tunes and songs from young composers and cover topics such as counting from one blanket to ten hugs, the various ways the moon is perceived, the flora and fauna saying good night and the end of busy days for children just like those who are listening. 123 Andrés is joined by extremely talented musicians and vocalists like the delightful young sisters Luna and Brisa Beltran, Latin GRAMMY nominees Mariana Baraj, 3 y Cuatro, and Chicago kindie artist Little Miss Ann on a bilingual arrangement of her song, “Fly, Shine, Soar.”

For both Spanish and non-Spanish speakers, La Luna is the perfect accompaniment to those quiet times of the day. To enjoy it, all you have to do is close your eyes and let the music wrap around you like a soft, cuddly blanket while all your worries and cares float away.

Beanstalk Jack performed by Paper Canoe Company

The fairy tale of “Jack and the Beanstalk” has been around for centuries, but this is the first time that it has been presented in such a unique, innovative way. The all-original 16 songs on Beanstalk Jack feature vocals by Paper Canoe co-founders Tami Stronach and Greg Steinbruner, backed by top-notch musicians, and tell the story of a young man bearing a guitar who climbs a beanstalk, meets the Giant, and the Giant’s daughter Harmony. Harmony joins Jack and they run away to follow their musical dreams.

 

The first half of the album relies heavily on a folk/folk-rock sound, paying homage to the sounds of folk greats like Simon and Garfunkel and Woody Guthrie. Once Jack reaches the summit of the beanstalk, the music takes on an almost musical theater quality to its arrangements, with hints of jazz, 50’s rock, pop and more emerging. Familiar elements such as the cow and Jack’s mother are included as well as a very dark and ominous version of “Fee Fi Fo Fum.”  Each song can be enjoyed on its own, but when put all together, they tell a beautiful, thrilling tale that is perfect for family listening.

 

Check out this adorable video for “Hey Wow” from the second half of the album, Beanstalk Jack.

Meet Falu of “Falu’s Bazaar”

When you think of children’s music in the United States, you don’t automatically think of Indian music. And when you think of children’s music in other languages, you don’t often think of music sung in Hindi or Gujarati. Well, that is all about to change. Falu’s Bazaar, the debut children’s album from established adult music performer Falu, has arrived and it is so much fun.

The ten tracks on the album follow children on a journey to the Hulululu Bazaar. The journey takes them on the bus where languages from around the world are spoken, through the bazaar filled with spices and foods and to a kitchen where all that goes into cooking is explored. Along the way, listeners are also given lessons in shapes, geography and the colors of the rainbow. Both Hindi and English are featured on the album as well as Gujarati on the final song, “Nishaad’s Lullaby” which is performed by Falu’s mother. Most of the songs are short enough and have enough repetition to be used in storytimes or other programming. With gorgeous vocals, amazing instrumentation and a very high production value, this album is a must have for all libraries.

In January, I had the privilege of getting to meet and talk with Falu just a couple of weeks before her album made it’s debut. Keep reading to learn about this delightful new voice in children’s music.

The main audience of this blog is librarians, teachers and parents. For those who aren’t familiar with your work, would you like to introduce yourself?
My name is FALU (Falguni Shah) and I was born and raised in India. I come from a musical family and finished my Masters in Indian Classical Music in Mumbai. After that I came to US and studied American Music. Before I released my kids album Falu’s Bazaar, I recorded two albums “FORAS ROAD” representing World Music and “FALU” representing a new genre – “Indie Hindi.” After that my son was born and along with him a mother in me was also born. My son Nishaad started asking me questions like what are the names of our spices, pots and pans? Which language do we speak at home? How do we count our numbers in Hindi versus English? Those questions got me thinking about how I can raise awareness of South Asian culture and give my son an identity of what it means to be an Indian American in the US.

Luckily my mom also sings and agreed to sing in my kids album Falu’s Bazaar which made it even more special as now I have my mother, and my son sing with me in this new project. I’ve tried to share South Asian culture and heritage through music and different languages in Falu’s Bazaar (English, Hindi and Gujarati). We have also tried to show our audiences how Indian Music has been passed on from one generation to another for centuries as in this album as three generations from own my family come together and share this experience with our audiences. My mom, passed on this tradition to me and now I’ll pass it on to my son and hope that he passes it on to his children so that this deep rooted tradition remains alive in our family.
What made you decide to make a children’s album?
This album was mainly born due to my son’s curiosity and his questions. But more importantly, I wanted to make sure he creates his own identity in this country. He inspired me to think about what a South Asian child wonders about and how he feels and thinks living an Indian American life here in the US. All these questions created a sense of wonder in me as well, and that really inspired me to make this children’s album.
Tell us about the process in creating Falu’s Bazaar.
I took all the hints from my little son, Nishaad. How he felt when he went to preschool – he saw that he was the only one with black hair and black eyes. How he was hesitant to open his lunch box in front of his friends because the spices made his Indian food smell stronger than a pizza. These incidents made me think about subject matters children can relate to for example, how all the children love rainbow, shapes, colors, riding a bus, picking their own vegetables and fruits from the market, counting numbers. That made me think – why don’t I bring in the educational element of learning South Asian culture through all these fun things that children love, but make them in multiple languages so they could learn counting in Hindi and English or learn the names of spices, pots and pans and colors in multiple languages. How much fun can that be for a child?

The style of music that we have used is North Indian Classical Music where in we teach children in multiple languages, how to count a 7 beat rhythm cycle called RUPAK along with counting numbers from 1 through 7, and stating 7 colors of a rainbow, or teaching about 7 continents, 7 days of the week, 7 oceans, 7 Indian musical notes which are SA RE GA MA PA DHA NI SA just like DO RE MA FA SO LA TI DO.  All these thoughts and topics were the main process in writing these songs. After that it was just a simple formality of arranging the music and going to the studio to record and release this music.

Falu (l) with fellow multi-lingual children’s performer Sonia De Los Santos in New York City, January 2018.

Many of the songs include lyrics in English and Hindi with other languages being highlighted as well. Why was it important to you to make a multi-language album?

India is a land of more than 25 state languages. Gujarat has a language called Gujarati, Maharashtra has a language called Marathi, Bengal has a language Bengali. Now imagine so many different languages spoken in America, for example – California has a different language, Virginia has another language, New York has a very different language than California. How would that work in America? It’s fascinating to me that in India people grow up speaking so many languages. I myself speak 5 different languages (Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, English and Urdu) and sing in many more languages including Sanskrit. So I feel learning multiple languages could be important for a child as it broadens their minds. It was important for me to show kids how so many languages exist in this world, how people can respect other cultures and exist peacefully with each other in spite of our differences. I tried to show it through singing in different languages in the album. More importantly I firmly believe that once a child’s mother tongue is lost, it is very easy for a child to also lose his culture and his roots of where he or she comes from. So at our house we only speak in our mother tongue Gujarati.
Both your son and your mother appear on the album. How did that come about?
My mom is a singer and music runs in my family so my son also got those musical genes. I found out when he was 18 months old that he could sing and he has perfect pitch so I decided to include all three generations in this album, sort of create a family legacy album that my child, grandchildren and great grandchildren can enjoy!
What’s next for Falu?
I’ve too many dreams to name one. I will continue touring with my children’s music in the afternoon and my adult Bollywood Orchestra at night. Since they share the same musicians, we plan to do two sets in any given venue – one for kids and one for grown ups. Right now we are touring with Falu’s Bazaar and Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra and really trying to promote our kids album out there so more and more kids can enjoy diversity in music and learn about different cultures and languages in the world.

The Starlighter performed by Shawn Colvin

Twenty years after the release of her first kids album, Holiday Songs and Lullabies, GRAMMY-winning adult artist Shawn Colvin returns to children’s music with her new album The Starlighter. As she did in 1998, Colvin once again looked to the 1965 children’s songbook, Lullabies and Night Songs for inspiration. Filled with 48 poems by authors such as Lewis Carroll and Robert Louis Stevenson, set to music arranged by Alec Wilder, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, this book is solid source material for young listeners.

Newly adapted by Colvin, the tracks on this Amazon Original album have a soothing, peaceful air to them. While the 14 songs in this collection are more non-traditional lullabies that lack the warm fuzzy quality of many contemporary lullabies, some of the songs such as “Sleep Baby Sleep,” “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” and “Hush, Little Baby” will be familiar to many adults.  All of the songs feature lush arrangements that support Colvin’s lovely solo voice making them a nice addition to playlists for winding down at the end of the day.

The first video from the album is for the title track, “The Starlighter.” The video is based on Victorian paper theatres with each scene containing over one hundred layered illustrations, making it a true work of art. Enjoy!

Walking Around with Giants performed by The Dilly Dallies

The Dilly Dallies, the California based duo of Steve Slater and Jenn Ekman return with a second album filled with songs that parents and children can relate to and the whole family can enjoy. New moms (or all moms and dads really) will be touched by the song “Little Tiny Toes” which talks about a parents’ love for a baby from head to toe. This song would make a nice intro or exit song to a Baby and Me type program. With repeating lyrics and easy to follow melody, caregivers will be able to sing-a-long in no time.

 

Parents will find the situations described in “I Get Up” very familiar. Told from a child’s perspective, it addresses the age old problem of a child not wanting to stay in bed at bedtime. Another song that provides the child’s point of view is the fun title song, “Walking Around with Giants” which gives the kids-eye-view (which in this case is knee height) when walking down a street filled with adults. Most of the songs are upbeat but the slower ones such as the pretty lullaby “Dreams Await” and “You Are Me and I Am You” showcase the complex harmonies created by Slater and Ekman.

 

All 13 of the songs on this album were written by Steve Slater. He and Ekman provide the lone vocals. The duo also plays all of the instruments – including the ukuleles and glockenspiel, carefully choosing those that best support the vocals on each song. Walking Around with Giants is a good album for family listening. The Dilly Dallies include on their website all of the lyrics and chords to every song on the album giving it an additional level of usability in storytimes and early childhood programs.

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