Album Spotlight – Why Do We Sing performed by Sam Tsui and Casey Breves

Why Do We Sing album cover

If you’re not already one of the 3M+ subscribers of Sam Tsui on YouTube, you will be after listening to this album! Why Do We Sing? is the debut family music album of Tsui and his partner in life and in music, Casey Breves. Billed as the official soundtrack to the book of the same name, Why Do We Sing? has been in non-stop rotation at my house. The duo’s incredible vocals and lyrics, combined with top-notch production value leaves you feeling like you are listening to a Broadway cast recording or soundtrack to the latest hit children’s film. From the first notes of the title track, you know you’re in for a real treat.

Each of the ten songs on this album serves to answer the question – why do we sing? And the answers woven throughout are that we sing to express joy, happiness, and love, and to find confidence and strength in ourselves. We sing alone, and we sing together. Singing shares stories and cultures and shapes our lives. Several of the songs in the collection give off musical theater vibes like the operatic “BIG VOICE” and the swinging holiday showstopper “Carol the Caribou.” The cumulative track “The Greatest Ever Campfire Song” has a catchy chorus that makes it impossible to resist singing along. Organically incorporated into the tracklist are songs featuring musical styles from around the world. From the K-Pop inspired “Showtime” which features the ultimate dance battle for kids and their parents, to “Suniye” a nod to Bollywood that spotlights the vocals of Vidya Vox, and the mariachi stylings of “Las Tres Notas” with special guest Anthony Gonzalez, Tsui and Breves skillfully pay homage to the various cultures while telling stories that entertain and engage. The quietest moments on the album come from the beautiful “The Language of Lullabies” which includes an astounding 50 languages to express the vocabulary of bedtime. 

The picture book Why Do We Sing? is written by Tsui and Breves with illustrations by Tsui. All of the ways that the album answers the question why do we sing (and more!) are depicted in the words and the pictures of the story. As with the soundtrack, the digital illustrations reflect a diverse array of characters and cultures. The pacing of the story and the color palette – steeped in blues and purples with pops of pastels, make Why Do We Sing? a versatile book that can be read with great gusto and excitement during storytime, or a little slower and quieter just before bed.

Why Do We Sing? the soundtrack and the book, are not to be missed!

Album Spotlight – “Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful” performed by Mr. Jeff

When Mr. Jeff, aka Jeff Klemm, introduced his song “Loud in the Library” to the crowd at the Children’s Music Network conference last November and announced that the full album wouldn’t be out until spring, it felt like that day was eons away. Well, the album finally debuted last week and let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait! Filled with 13 energetic, imaginative tracks, Mr. Jeff’s pop/rock sound, combined with very catchy, singable lyrics is exactly what you need to get moving and grooving.

The title track, “Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful” kicks things off and sets the tone for a truly wonderful album. Klemm’s experience as a Pre-K teacher, songwriter and musician are on full display, capturing the essence of messages and activities that have kid appeal and setting them to beats that they won’t be able to resist. For those who do storytimes or oversee early childhood classes, there are several must-have songs to add to your playlists. These include the fast-paced “Poppin’ Bubbles” which works perfectly with a bubble machine, “Race Car” which gets kids moving very fast, going round curves and turning left and right, and “The Jellyfish Dances Like This.” Other highlights (although they are all highlights) include “It’s Your Birthday,” which is the perfect tune to wake your kids up to on their special day, and “Mr. Jeff’s Numbers Song” a clever new take on counting from 1-20. The album wraps up with a gentle tale of friendship told in the lovely song, “Sleepover.”

Mr. Jeff’s debut children’s album Wonderful Wonderful Wonderful is available on all the usual streaming platforms and his videos are available on his website and YouTube page. For all the library folks, check out the video for “Loud in the Library.” A huge thanks to Mr. Jeff for all the library love he shares at the end of the video!

 

Album Spotlight: Aqua Phonic performed by Marko Polo

One of the many great things about children’s music is how it can make learning fun. Sometimes it’s little things like ABCs or counting to 10, but other times, it’s bigger things, like scientific concepts. Over the next two album spotlights, I’m focusing on amazing albums that take science and make it fun. First up is the water-themed album, Aqua Phonic, from Marko Polo. In his second album for families, Marko Polo, aka Mark Pagano, a teaching artist based in St. Louis, takes listeners from the smallest drop of water to the greatest oceans of the world.

The eight tracks in this collection are equal parts informative and entertaining with each having a tone that perfectly matches with the song’s subject matter. The album opens with “We Are Water,” teaching children the properties and science of water before digging into some of the inhabitants of this incredible resource. This is followed by the rock-tinged “Axolotl” a tune crafted by Pagano and a group of middle schoolers about the oddly adorable amphibian before turning to a reggae-infused beat to tell the tale of the “Sirenia,” the manatees who were mistaken for mermaids. This is followed by the psychedelic world of the “Coral” before introducing everyone to “Walrus Sings,” a pop tune based on an article from National Geographic.

Along with the animals, Pagano also focuses on water as place. He takes listeners to the deepest depths where everything glows at the “Bottom of the Ocean” before taking them back into the light with “Follow the Water.” This lovely duet with New Zealander Claudia Robin Gunn features a melody and lyrics that eddies and flows just like the current of the water. The album closes with the beautiful, “Drip Drop.” This final track, so skillfully designed, aptly details the water cycle while also speaking to the experience of parents and caregivers – “Time keeps moving like a river/Feels like it’s going quicker as I watch you grow.”

Pagano’s mastery as a songwriter is clear throughout the album as he elevates each tune, sharing facts while setting scenes and telling stories. He is occasionally joined by guest vocalists, but it is his voice that remains front and center, often reminiscent of the vocal stylings of Justin Roberts.  Aqua Phonic would be a great addition to science units or family playlists.