Tag Archives: Music

CD Review: Grow, by Andrew Queen

I’m not a huge fan of concept albums because they take themselves way, way too seriously, and because it’s usually the result of pretention and unchecked hubris from a musician who thinks because he can write an expressionistic song he can somehow tell a long narrative through an innately non-narrative form. But maybe concept albums are absolutely perfect for kids.

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(Or song cycles rather.) As they are supposed to introduce kids to music and teach them something about the world around them, an album of songs on the same subject really hammers a point home, and demonstrates connections between different things that the little one may not have noticed as of yet.

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I think of this as I listen to Grow by Canadian singer-songwriter Andrew Queen. It’s a playful, refreshingly non-cloying kiddie record all about food: veggies, spaghetti, strange brews, and cheesy mac. Yes, kids albums often have songs about food because that’s something kids can relate to, but Queen and Karen Stille go to different places with it, and don’t talk down to kids, always a danger in this genre. The songs are an even mix of originals and inventive adaptations of folk songs; “The Pizza Tree” replaces the spaghetti in the “On Top of Old Smokey” kiddie parody “On Top of Spaghetti” with pizza, for example.

The music itself is jaunty and pleasant, rocking a bluegrassy, Union Station-meets-NPR kind of vibe. The musicianship across the board is excellent and confident with standout performances from mandolinist Nicolas Tjelias and Luke Mercier on the banjo, and Queen on the jug, gut bucket, and jaw harp.

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 This is one you won’t mind having on in the car and is a great way to introduce kids to something other than straight-up rock or pop.

CD Review: Quest for Zhu (Music From the Motion Picture)

Two years ago, Zhu Zhu Pets were the hottest toy of the Christmas season, the 2009 version of Tickle Me Elmo, or Cabbage Patch Kids, and, as such were so popular that they were, ironically, impossible to find. Oh, Zhu Zhu Pets are, it is my understanding, robot hamsters that make little robotic hamster sounds and they squirrel around on the floor and burrow into plastic tunnels that you can buy for them to burrow into.

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They’ve spawned. Satisfied with their dominance of American popular culture for a while, the Zhu Zhu Pets want more. More! This week, the Zhu Zhu Pets begin their multimedia empire in earnest. They’re going to have a float at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And on that float will be pop singer Savannah Outen, a YouTube star and Radio Disney sensation. Outen will be singing songs (with Zhu Zhu Pets and 130 hand-picked young singers) from the Zhu Zhu Pets new animated movie The Quest for Zhu, which stars a bunch of Zhu Zhu Pet characters singing familiar, kid-friendly pop and rock classics, along with originals by Outen and American Idol finalist Thia Megia. And that’s the music part of the media phenomenon: the soundtrack to Quest for Zhu.

I know, I know. Likable, chubby, CGI rodents with high pitched voices performing “What I Like About You,” “Celebration,” “Let’s Groove” and “ABC.” Yes, I know. It’s…familiar. But song choice is important. The Chipmunks, in their latest incarnation, which is what matters to you, the parent of a child, are horrible. The boy Chipmunks are smug and crass.

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The girl Chipmunks are sexed-up, lazy girl stereotypes.

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I’d much rather hear the Zhu Zhu Pets sing “ABC,” a song originally sung by children, to children, then hear the Chippettes tell their boyfriends to put a ring on it. Plus Outen and Megia have nice voices, and know their strengths: there’s nothing wrong with innocuous kiddie-pop, and something musical for kids to have of their very own.

Dadnabbit Interview: Morgan Taylor, a.k.a. Gustafer Yellowgold

There’s never any shortage of cartoon characters in family entertainment, but few of them possess the unusual, undeniable appeal of Gustafer Yellowgold, the friendly, bug-eyed alien from the sun who arrived on Earth five years ago and has quickly achieved kindie rock star status. With his latest adventure, Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock, coming out on March 1, we decided now would be the perfect time for a chat with his creator: musician and illustrator Morgan Taylor.

So let’s talk about Infinity Sock.

Yeah! What’s going on with it? (Laughs)

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Gustafer records is that they’re not only mellow — as you often point out — but that they’re also gentle, which makes a big difference, I think. And I also appreciate the fact that they don’t pander musically, either to kids or to parents.

I don’t — yeah, I don’t think that does any good, to pander. It’s not in my nature — I’m not even thinking about whether I’m doing it or not. Maybe I sensed that kind of thing in music as a kid, so I try and avoid it now.

I know you’ve said that you spent a lot of time listening to AM radio when you were a kid, and that influence is pretty apparent in your work. But do you remember listening to any music geared specifically to kids?

Yeah, I actually did, and the older my son gets, the more my memories of it resurface. I had a lot of the old book-and-record combos from Disney, like Br’er Rabbit and Snow White, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. And the music from Sesame Street and The Electric Company, of course. There was a lot of great music on those shows. Continue reading