Some (Really Really Really) Brief Reviews

May 04

So for part of the trip to and from KindieFest, I finally listened to some records all in a row — these days, I do a lot more sampling than full-record-listens.  So, a few thoughts on some recent releases below.  I like all three of the ones up today a lot — they’re fairly different from each other, but each does exactly what I think the artists were trying to do.

A note: When I’m listening to music for airplay consideration, I write down all of the track numbers I would be up for playing at some point, and circle those numbers of songs I really like.  (And then a few will get arrows or exclamation points.  It’s complex.)  So I’ll note the tracks I circled below too.

Recess MonkeyFlying! First off, great illustrations from local hero Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and a terrific overall concept and theme.  And Drew totally rocks the shiny tights.  Produced by Tor Hyams (who is, full disclosure, one of my business partners in KindieFest), it’s a great-sounding record with the reliably insanely catchy pop songs.  Circled tracks: “Day Job,” “Covered in Band Aids,” “My Valentine,” “Your Favorite Book,” and “Invisible Friend” (which features Molly Ledford in a guest appearance that does sound of a piece with the song, something I talked about on my collaboration panel).

Billy KellyThe Family Garden.  More than his earlier stuff, this sounds more like a band (which I guess makes sense, since I don’t think he had a band as such last time around).  Eclectic in themes, goofy as all get-out, and utterly authentic and sincere (but not treacly).  Circled tracks: “The Family Garden,” “Why Is the Moon Following Me?,” “We Could Be Pen Pals” (another Molly Ledford visit, this one maybe a little less perfectly integrated but still lovely), “Scootdootdoodlydoo,” “It’s Close Enough,” “The Happy Happy Whistling Song” (my notes here remind me to play it next to an Andrew Bird song), and “The Invention of the Straw.”

Brady RymerLove Me For Who I Am.  I so like three of the first four songs on this record that I found the second half a little bit of a letdown, at least on the first listen.  But boy, those first four — especially “I Don’t Like Change” — I like a lot. (That one got an arrow next to it.)  Rootsy, performed in a way that feels somehow simultaneously impeccably performed and loose.  I was surprised then to hear that the drums on the record are pre-recorded loops (read more about his decision to use them at Dadnabbit, a site you should be reading constantly, incidentally).  Technology!  Plastics!  Whatever, it works here.  Circled songs: “Love Me For Who I Am,” “Picky Eater,” the aforementioned “I Don’t Like Change,” and “Soft Things” (featuring Laurie Berkner in a smart guest spot).

I’ve got some more CDs I listened to ready — including ScribbleMonster‘s insane genius Look Both Ways, but they’re all at the studio and I’m at home.  So I’ll try to write a little about those soon, and to do this a little more regularly, since, at least for now, I’m not doing any other family music writing.

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KindieFest 2011: Some Thoughts

May 02

We’ll have some more formal followup from all of us organizers soon — keep an eye on and our Facebook page, where we’re also posting links to photos, videos, etc.– but I wanted to take a minute to get some of my first thoughts down.

  • It was a terrific year.  The panels, the music, the people, the everything — it was just a bucket of fun.
  • If I were to try to summarize the themes I heard throughout the panels in one sentence, it’d be “Be who you are.”  Whether talking about branding or collaboration or social networking or PR, everyone seemed to come back to that core notion of authenticity.
  • I really liked having some people who aren’t in the family music world on the panels — Jim Olsen has tremendous “branding” knowledge from his building Signature Sounds (and, incidentally, from being a huge part of making our station what it is), and Jonathan Coulton brought a ton of knowledge to bear on the social networking panel.
  • Even the live acts, I realized as I was driving home, were utterly and purely authentic.  When I was introducing CandyBand, I mentioned that I once awarded them the entirely fictional award “Best Kids’ Rock Band That Actually Listens to Rock Music.”  They play the music they play — and they kick ass at it — because it’s who they are.  Same with the (otherwise completely different) Cat & a Bird, and The Pop Ups, and The Not-Its, Shine & the Moonbeams, and so on.
  • Steph texted me early Sunday morning: “I feel like I was at one of the best concerts I ever saw last night.”  Man, was she right.  During every single act, I thought, “Man, I’d hate to follow that band.”  And then the next act would just kill it.  Same thing with Sunday.
  • Shine & the Moonbeams: Gonna be huge. Write it down.
  • There’s more, but I need to write an exam.  Thanks to everyone who attended, who participated, who rocked, who danced, who laughed, who hung out.  You’re awesome.
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