The winter holidays are sneaking up on you. (Honest, they are. Look around the corner. Boo! There they are.) And you probably haven’t finished shopping. The best thing about giving your kids music — at least good music — is, of course, that you get to listen to it, too, and it won’t be broken and in the corner within a few days. Unless you’re really clumsy with your CDs, in which case you probably shouldn’t even be reading this; you might get hurt.
Anyway. This month, I’m showcasing some good CDs for your kids, your friends’ kids, your nieces and nephews, and so on:
Randy Kaplan — Loquat Rooftop:
Randy Kaplan is a very clever singer, mostly from Brooklyn though he’s recently apparently hit the road and is wandering between Brooklyn, Colorado, and California. His first record, Five Cent Piece, had some very funny songs, most notably the tale of the shark who appeared in Randy’s tub, demanding, “Shampoo Me,” which invariably causes intense giggling in our house. Loquat Rooftop is similarly funny, with “No Nothing” (about a cat named Nothing and some other oddly monikered critters) and “Clothes Dryer” (in which he reminisces about laundry camp), along with some cool covers (“Charlie Brown,” “Move It on Over”). The CD has some sweet moments, too, most notably with the title track evoking a summer evening in the city enjoying the Asian fruit called a loquat. The music ranges from fairly straight-up folk to something with a more bluesy vibe, but, even in those familiar genres, nobody really sounds like him. RandyKaplan.com
Various Artists — A World of Happiness re-release:
This CD was originally released a few years ago but was not promoted very well, and it deserved a lot more attention. The songwriter/producer, Hyams, who also books the phenomenal Kidzapalooza and Austin Kiddie Limits festivals, is re-releasing it with three bonus tracks from the likes of G. Love and Perry Ferrell (of Jane’s Addiction). In addition to those big names, it’s got Lisa Loeb, Samuel L. Jackson, Magic Johnson, Isaac Hayes, Lou Rawls, and many more. The new G. Love song is a real stand-out, and even if you have the earlier release, you should get the new one, too. AWorldOfHappiness.com
Kimya Dawson — Alphabutt:
Dawson is very funny and her low-fi (very low-fi) musical vibe and simple arrangements translate well to music for kids; her grownup music, most recently heard on the Juno soundtrack, already sounds like nursery rhymes, just with non-kid themes. Alphabutt is mostly great, with some sweet and funny moments throughout. “Happy Home (Keep on Writing)” is the highlight for me, one of the least cloying tributes to nonconformity I’ve heard on a kids’ record, and a number of other tracks work well too. Fair warning: There is, like some of her grownup work, a sort of glee in shock, with uncountable “butts” and “farts” and even a “sucks.” Of course, poop jokes are hilarious to a lot of kids, and overall, the CD works. It’s proudly imperfect — there is zero slickness here — and a bit subversive. If you’re easily offended, this isn’t the record for you. But for the rest of you, even if it’s kind of dumb at times, it’s pretty close to genius dumb. KimyaDawson.com
Bill Childs is a law professor in western Massachusetts. He and his kids produce a kids’ music radio show, “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child,” weekly; check it out at SpareTheRock.com. Contact him at [email protected].