The Baby Grands – The Baby Grands (2008, Backspace)
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As has been discussed many times here at Dadnabbit, we no longer live in the dark old days of children’s music, when parents had slim choices for audio entertainment, and most of them involved sitting through untold hours of synth-laden arrangements and cutesy-poo lyrics. We’ve entered a more enlightened era, one in which artists who cater to kids often try to target adult tastes too — but even now, there’s a pretty stark split in kids’ music; some artists try to infuse their music with an approximation of the manic energy of youth, while others take a more thoughtful, laid back approach.
Atlanta’s Baby Grands fit the latter description, and even if their press materials overplay their hand a bit — whoever came up with the phrase “manna from kid music heaven” may wish to consider trying decaf — the trio’s self-titled debut still manages to blend a kid’s-eye view with smart pop songwriting with admirable, uncommon skill. Singer Donny Todd, multi-instrumentalist Ben Rowell, and lyricist Marc Castelo (whose presence makes the Baby Grands the kidscene equivalent of Procol Harum or the Dead, I guess) set out to create what they call “Kids’ music that’s not jus for kids,” and they get about as close as you could reasonably expect; you’re probably never going to reach for “Panda Rock” or “Diggin’ a Hole to China” when the little ones aren’t around, but (as I can attest from personal experience) you may very well find yourself humming the melody to “Sugar Makes Me Loco.”
What it lacks in wacky sound effects and silly gags, The Baby Grands more than makes up for with themes that will be relevant to its key demographic — stuff like the alphabet (“Why Is It W?”), the planets (“Pluto”), hopes and dreams (“Dream Big”), and the family pet (“Wet Nose Friend,” which is not, as I’d initially assumed, about my year-old son). It’s all uplifting, sweetly melodic stuff, with all the replay value you’d hope for from a band that got its start from a chance meeting at a playgroup. Try some samples at the Baby Grands’ MySpace page, or have a look at the good time had by all at their record release party last November: