Is December 31st too late to release a top records of 2012 list? Probably, but it’s what I grew up on. I’d go over to my grandma’s house on New Years Eve around noon and would watch the top 100 videos on MTV until the ball dropped. So, I stubbornly waited until today to post this Top 10 list. Pageviews be damned.
As with all lists, they’re subjective and strictly based on my opinion and what engages my 3 1/2 year old.
Dadnabbit Top 10 Family Records of 2012
10. Various Artists – Keep Hoping Machine Running: Songs of Woody Guthrie
The first of two Woody Guthrie tributes in the Top 10. This tribute, an idea by Jeff Giles and Bill Childs features some of the best in the Kindie world paying tribute to Mr. Guthrie. 9. The Pop Ups – Radio Jungle
The Brooklyn synth-pop duo is back with another batch of infectious pop songs that had our whole family dancing. 8. Elizabeth Mitchell – Little Seed: Songs for Children by Woody Guthrie
Another Woody Guthrie tribute and Elizabeth Mitchell brings out the sweetness of the tunes. Loved this record far more than I expected. 7. Gustafer Yellowgold – Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year in the Day
Another year, another album from Morgan Taylor. This time around he finds holidays throughout the year for Gustafer to enjoy. 6. Various Artists – Science Fair
A truly empowering album. As the father of two girls, the lyrics “Girls can do anything” and “Oh girl, you can be whatever you want to be” featured on this album make it a no-brainer as one of the years best. A perfect example of why kindie music is better than Top 40 or Kidz Bop. 5. Justin Roberts – Lullaby
Mr Roberts does it again. I’ll never doubt him again. 4. Ozomatli – Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz
The L.A. based latin-salsa-funk-hip hop band bring some fresh sounds to the family music scene. While overproduced at times, it still has the Ozomatli sound I know and love. 3. Okee Dokee Brothers – Can You Canoe?
A unique concept, executed to near perfection. 2. Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band – A Potluck
Only Mr. Diaz’s second full length and he’s already one of the best in the biz. Power Pop/Rock executed flawlessly. 1. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Make Believers
Simply put, this album kicks ass. Genre bending organic old school hip hop vibe with catchy lyrics and killer hooks. Such a rewarding album. I simply LOVE this album.
Honorable Mentions: Kepi Ghoulie, Sugar Free All-Stars, Randy Kaplan, Farmer Jason, The Board of Education, Songs for Junior Rangers, Astrograss, Ben Rudnick.
Top 5 songs (based on number of plays on my ipod)
1. Box Of Crayons – The Pop Ups.
After 15 years of enjoying a devoted following, Ozomatli knew it was time for a change when they couldn’t give away tickets to some of their fans. But they could to their kids.
On September 25th, the Grammy-winning band will release its first full length kids album, OzoKidz. This follows a few years of dabbling in side projects such as recording for PBS Kids and the Happy Feet II soundtrack.
I spoke with Ozomatli percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi about his kids musical inspiration, the similarities between playing for kids and adults, and why it’s necessary for them to diversify their sound.
Why a kids album? Why now?
We decided to start doing kids shows at first because we realized that a lot of our fans were having kids. We would do a show on a Wednesday night, and normally in the past we could pack a house. Four years ago and were noticing that people weren’t coming. We put a message out there on Facebook to have an unlimited guest list, and we got responses that we’d get was “We can’t, we have kids.” So a light bulb went off, we were getting older and our fans were too. They were having kids and needed sitters. We just started adapting our old music for children. That’s kind of how it started. And then coincidentally we got these recording gigs for PBS Kids were they wanted us to do 30 second bumper music with a theme — one was on opposable thumbs, one were for mesasurement. Several of those. They made videos with them. And then we had the opportunity to do the entire music for the Happy Feet II video game. They approached us and gave us a list of 30 different songs, everything from “Funkytown” to Harry Belafonte. We went into the studio and did it and it was great. It kind of developed our chops for recording kids music. It was really freeing and it was a lot of fun. So the next steop was to make our own record.
Before you dove head first into Ozokids, did you realize there was sort of a independent cool kids music scene?
I have a duaghter who is 4 now, so I’ve been aware of it, but even before that I had heard of people like Dan Zanes and They Might Be Giants. I became more aware of it once I had my own daughter. I think we’re going to fit right in with that team and offer something a little bit different as well.
Who are some of the artists you looked towards for inspiration?
They Might Be Giants stuff was really inspiring to me. I could listen to it myself and enjoy it as well as my daughter, and that kind of helped me. There was other kids music, and I would say, really, do we have to listen to this? It was not relatable to me. I was like, Oh we need to make music that transcends age — from something really young to adults can listen to. I think our music does anyway. Even if we’re not doing kids music per say, I think it’s broad appeal.
What was the music/band/artist that inspired you to pick up an instrument as a child? Is that your hope with this record, inspiring children to pick up instruments?
I listened to a lot of different stuff from classic rock to punk to jazz. Some of the jazz I listened to as a teenager was mind opening and broadening. It’s kind of like an education without going to school. Later percusionist Zakir Hussain and Prithiraj Chowdhury inspired me to go back to school and study Indian drumming and world music drumming and percussion. I don’t know if our intention was necessarily to get kids to pick up an instrument, but if that’s something that inspires someone picks up, that a great bonus. There are some kids who always come to our Los Angeles shows with Brazilian hand percussion, using the same model that we use and have an Ozo logo on it. It’s kind of cool to see children pick up those things. They are looking at us and saying, let me try that. If that can lead something — music or not — that’s great.
Is there a formula or process to take your sound and make it for kids?
We have a little more freedom when making for kids. There’s a certain amount of freedom to do songs we wouldn’t with Ozomatli. It’s more of a fun element.
Was the song writing process the same, but just with lyrics for kids?
The process is pretty similar. Everyone brings in their own subject matter and ideas. It’s a pretty easy process in terms of what we want to do. That’s a really great place to be when you’re creating in the studio.
You’re back in the studio recording an adult record. Has it been difficult to change the writing process?
Not at all! We’re in pre-production for an Ozomatli record, and I think it actually helps the creative process because our juices are flowing. When you get back in the studio, it’s not hard to switch gears at all, and if anything it helps to keep grease the wheels.
Do you play songs for your kids first to get approval?
We don’t do it to get approval, and most of the songs we haven’t played live yet. A few of the cuts on the album — like “Sun And Moon” and “Piraña” — we were playing before we were recording. I think we work backwards that way. We make them first, then see what works live. The ones that don’t work as much live fall back, and the ones that do rise to the top. This goes for our Ozomatli records too.
Was there a thought of expanding the 4 60-second songs from PBS kids into full songs?
Those were kind of appetizers and one-offs, but we have played some of them live. We could work them into our live set.
Do you find those songs get more recognition?
It’s hard to tell because we’re such a high-energy band and we just want kids to do something on each song to get moving, so I’m not sure if there is a recognition factor.
Little bit different than an adult crowd, then.
Totally different. Well, but now that I say that, maybe it’s different in that the attention spans are a little bit shorter, but what I did notice is, you know what, this is just little people. But they react in the same way that adults do. Underneath it all it’s all the same thing.
Seem to wrote songs from an educational perspective rather then from the eyes of a child, was that done on purpose?
I think that partly came from the PBS kind of thinking. I think that came fromthe process of writing a song on a theme. We just wanted a balance, we wanted songs that are.
The record industry so much different and less stable than it was when you started, was that a motivating factor in this new evolution?
I think it’s kind of necessary. The more diverse in what we can do, the better it is for our band. Having a whole branch of Ozo kids being a completely seperate entity would be a great thing for us. The more things that we have as a band, the better. Whether that’s making music for movies, commercials, movies, while playing kids shows, all those things combined are good for us and the longevity of our band in the way the music business is right now. We’ve been a band for 18 years, and I think part of that is the reason to adapt and not rely on the industry. When we first started, we recorded on tape and pro-tools were just coming out, there wasn’t anything like a 360 deal, Tower Records was still in business, and we’ve seen a lot of changes. Our ability to diversify and do other things has helped us survive, and we’ll keep doing that.
Listen and download the track ‘Trees’ for free! (only until 9/3)
Anytime I have ever told a friend about Ozomatli I always add that “They’re the best live band I have ever seen. ” I have yet to see a band capture the raw, live energy that Ozomatli produces on stage from start to finish. Hailing from Los Angeles, Ozomatli is a melting pot of music genres: salsa, funk, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae and so much more. So it was with great excitement when I saw earlier this year that they were going to be making childrens music under the moniker Ozokids. However, the soundtrack for Happy Feet Two: The Videogame is not Ozokids, rather Ozomatli.
As they do with most of their albums, this one is bilingual with a mix of English and Spanish songs. “Bailar Pinguino” (Dancing Penguin) and “Mas Campana” (More Bell) are two and you better believe “Mas Campana” features some cowbell. Even the opening track “Dynamite” goes back and forth between English & Spanish. The album is full of all original tracks, except a cover of Basement Jaxxs’ “Do Your Thing.”
If Ozokids is anything like what they feed our ears on Happy Feet Two: The Videogame, parents and kids are in for a real treat in 2012.
2. Get On The Dance Floor
3. Flip Flap
4. Bailar Pinguino
5. Go Crazy
6. Are You Ready?
8. Your Hand In Mine
9. Penguin’s Life (feat. Lil P’nut)
10. Do Your Thing
11. Happy Bird
12. Mas Campana