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.
Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s annual Children’s Music Round Up! For those of you new to the site, at the end of each year, rather than doing a “Top 10” or a “Best of” list, I compile a list of albums that have come to my attention during the last 12 months and separate them into fun categories. The total number of albums that are included varies from year-to-year. This year 45 albums make an appearance in the list below.
The richness and depth that is family music just keeps growing. 2022 saw the introduction of new artists, established acts returning after creative hiatuses, and veteran performers taking risks and trying something new. Let’s say hello to 2023 by taking a look back at the “year that was” in children’s music. All albums are available online. Don’t see your favorites? Please add them in the comments.
Be Mindful, Be Kind
Music to guide our everyday lives.
For Children of All Ages performed by You and Us
Happy Day performed by Jenn Cleary
Just a Minute performed by Jesse Jukebox
Mosaic performed by Jumpin’ Jamie
Nursery Rhymes for Kinder Times performed by Raffi and Lindsay Monroe
Your Voice is Magic performed by Again Again
Sometimes it’s just more fun to sing with a friend.
Best Day Ever performed by Stacey & Athena
Dear Heart performed by Martin and Rose
The Greats performed by Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band
Smith & Yarn performed by Aaron Nigel Smith and Red Yarn
Festival de Música
Music in Spanish and English for the whole family to enjoy.
Los Fabulosos performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
Mi Colores performed by Nathalia
Musiquita performed by Musiquita
Oh, to be Young
Perfect tunes for the preschool crowd
Let’s Move performed by Katie Dwyer
Echo Songs, Vol. 2 performed by Noodle Loaf
Forgot My Oars performed by Tim Seston
Rain Rain Go Away performed by Adam Steele
Wondering performed by Music with Gina
Our Friends to the South
2022 was the year when music from Australia and New Zealand arrived on the scene.