Sound Bites for August

Well, it’s the middle of August. AUGUST, people! For many of us, that means that summer is winding down, school-clothes shopping is underway, and carpools are being organized.

But fear not, those commutes don’t have to be boring that first day of school! Some fantastic new music for families is being released to make the transition a bit easier to swallow.

Two bands are releasing albums on August 19th that will blow your mind.

First, it’s The Pop Ups with their latest, Appetite for Construction. I was fortunate enough to debut the World Premiere of “Puppet Playground” here earlier this week, which I adore. And let me tell you, the rest of the album does not disappoint.

I love bands like this, ones that just ooze fun and genius creativity. They’re thinking about the complete kid – not just their ears, but their minds. Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein, the force behind The Pop Ups, are some of the most innovative, original musicians making music for families today.  With a unique blend of quirky instrumentation, clever and often syncopated rhythms, and variety of tempos combined with inventive content, The Pop Ups have carved out a very special place for themselves in the family music genre.

This is an album that I got excited about from the first few notes of the first song. It’s not often that I’m wiggling so enthusiastically while previewing an album that my husband asks what I’m listening to, but he did with this album.

The Pop Ups have crafted an album in which they say that every song “provides an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.”  Appetite for Construction encourages pushing the limits of your creativity, expanding your imaginative horizons. “Pictures Making Pictures” “Craft Night” and “Puppet Playground” invite listeners to channel their inner Martha Stewarts and get cracking on their own creations.

There’s no doubt The Pop Ups love what they do, and it shows, especially on catchy songs such as “All These Shapes,” (with it’s rockin’ backbeat) or the dreamy, funky “Go To Sleep.”  The album is masterfully produced, often providing listeners with an electro-pop flood of music, and once the album is over, I want more.

Other personal favorites include “Costume Party” (which sounds straight out of the 80’s, with its horns on the mellow bridge and smooth vocals), “Your Own Imagination” (which gives kids alternatives to pulling out your electronic device as a means to pass time) and “Glitter Everywhere” (ending with the essential Dust Buster.  Seriously, these guys break out an actual Dust Buster).

The Pop Ups Appetite for Construction will be available August 19th on iTunes and Amazon.


Another album being released on August 19th is Sea Blue Sea, the third album by The Whizpops. Hailing from Montana, The Whizpops is comprised of two elementary school teachers (Kevin Cashman and Casey Schaefer), a biologist (Keaton Wilson) and other artists.

They’re taking sea life by storm with this album.  Their next stop? Taking the family music circuit by storm as well.

Sea Blue Sea is an aural aquatic lesson. The latest album by The Whizpops would make a great science class accompaniment, using groovy, hip melodies and fantastic production to discuss all types of sea creatures.

I am enamored by artists like The Whizpops, who can incorporate high-level concepts in to music and allow someone to learn without even knowing it. The lyrics in Sea Blue Sea are sophisticated, but still accessible to young ears, often allowing for further discussion about words like “cephalopod.”

With rapping similar to something like The Imagination Movers, and Margi Cates soulful vocals, The Whizpops create music that just makes you feel good, like “Manta Ray,” or like you’re at a party, with songs like “Dolphin Disco.”

From the rockabilly “Sea Turtle” to the driving waltz of “Whale Shark;” from the bold accordion and Piratey swag of “Anglerfish” to the calypso style of “Blue Whale;” from the soft rock of “Starfish” to the reggae beat of “Octopus,” the fun lyrics and rhymes created by The Whizpops would be a funky marine musical adventure for just about any age group.

Sea Blue Sea by The Whizpops be available August 19th on iTunes and Amazon.


The “First Lady of Children’s Music,” Ella Jenkins, recently turned 90 years old. 90, ladies and gentleman. If you’re not standing up and clapping for her, do it, right now.

To celebrate her birthday, Ella released a new album with Smithsonian Folkways, More Multicultural Children’s Songs, her 40th title, that features 20 tunes from previous albums.

In this new release, Ella relies on the simplicity of her vocals and minimal ukulele accompaniment with a classic call-and-response style and repeatable stanzas to transport any listener to far-away places.

Listening to Ella Jenkins makes me feel like I’m in the warmest preschool classroom on the planet filled with a vibrant energy ripe for learning.

Spanish, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Japanese and Chinese languages make appearances in this album through a mixture of spoken text and singing.  This album is a great way to introduce your children to different cultures that span the globe from Australia (with “In Australia” and “Australian Zoo”), to Europe (in “A German Counting Rhyme” and “Tee-kan-yas”), to Asia (“In the People’s Republic of China”).

Ella teaches young listeners little nuggets of different languages, like how to say “How are you?” in Mandarin (in “A Train Ride to the Great Wall”) or “Good Morning” in Russian (in “Rushing Around in Russia”) or how to count to 10 in Japanese (in “Count from One to Ten”).

“I’m Going to Cairo” capitalizes on the fun aspect of having a city of the same spelling in vastly different countries, like Cairo, Egypt, and Cairo Illinois.  “Differences” is a spoken word track that discusses the subtle differences between American English and British English. “Canadian Friendship” is lovely, lilting song with beautiful harmonies, strumming guitars and ukulele.

Ella Jenkins’ More Multicultural Children’s Songs is available through the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings website, iTunes, and Amazon.


Dan Crow  is a musician and educator who weaves in linguistic themes of alliteration, rhyming, synonyms, action words and phonics to create the lively album, As the Crow Flies.

An Emmy award winner for his video “Just For Fun,” and songwriter for the Disney Channel, Dan Crow has his finger firmly on the pulse of what makes a younger listener tick, and makes music that would liven up any preschool class.

Crow tackles issues young kids are all too familiar with, such as bullying in “Bully Girl and Bully Boy,” and the multitude of stuff kids can acquire in “Too Much Stuff.”

His sense of humor shines in songs like the surfy “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” and “Tooth Fairy Take Me Home,” sung from the point of view of a loose tooth.

“The Frog Song” uses the literary device of accumulation – in this case, animals upon animals – to talk about feelings.  And “Gravy and Potatoes” is a modern take on “Apples and Bananas” with a funky electronic vibe.

Dan Crow’s As The Crow Flies is available on his website and iTunes.


Banana Park is the brainchild of a father who wrote songs for his kids and posted them on YouTube. An album of those songs followed, titled Let’s Go Play.

This album has a little Jimmy Buffet feel, with short, upbeat tunes that possess an island easiness to them.Better suited for the preschool gang, Banana Park makes music with concepts honed in on younger interests, like food (“Fruity Snack” and “Crackers and Melted Cheese”), animals (“Animals”, “Butterfly”, “Monkey Do Monkey Say”) and games (“Making a Castle”).

“Let’s Go Play” and “Riding Our Bikes” are the more mature and sophisticated tracks on album, with swinging guitars and catchy baselines. “I Love You” reminds me of those unsolicited warm pronouncements of love from my kids, as a small child explains the simple things his parents do that make him feel loved. And the sweet tracks “Snowflakes Falling” and “Bedtime” are lullabies you can add to your repertoire.

Let’s Go Play by Banana Park is available on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.


Now, it’s YOUR turn. What are you planning on listening to on your way to school this fall?




WORLD PREMIERE: “Puppet Playground” by The Pop Ups

You guys, I’m getting to do something I’ve never done before. I’m so excited I’m about to pee my pants! I’m getting to present the WORLD PREMIERE of a song. Right here on this blog! I feel all and everything.

Not only do I get to World Premiere a song, but it’s from one of my favorite family music bands, The Pop Ups.

This group creates some of the freshest sounds in family music, and they’re back at it with a new album, Appetite for Construction, due out August 19th.  (I’ll be featuring them on my August round-up later this week, so be sure to come back and check it out.)

Making its World Premiere exclusively here, from The Pop Ups’ latest album, is the track “Puppet Playground.”

The Pop Ups (comprised of Jason Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein) may sing about ideas that appeal to kids, but in “Puppet Playground, the infectious tempo and electro-pop sounds reminiscent of Oasis make this band appealing to just about anyone.

The song is a veritable How-To list of inventive instructions to create your own puppets. And what would be better than puppets? A place for them to frolic, of course!

With a bit of imagination, anything can be used to create a puppet and a playground.  What can you make with a cardboard box? An index card? A popsicle stick? An old sock? The possibilities are endless, much like The Pop Ups’ creativity.

And look at this: These guys create their own puppets for the live shows! Who better to get some tips from? Here are some photos of Jason with a couple of the bug puppets they’ve created for their live show – and even these photos are making their World Premiere!:

Photo courtesy The Pop Ups / Beth Blenz-Clucas

Photo courtesy The Pop Ups / Beth Blenz-Clucas

Okay, it’s clear I dig these guys, so let’s cut to the chase.

Without further adieu….I present the WORLD PREMIERE of “Puppet Playground” by The Pop Ups!

To share this song on Facebook, Twitter or your blog,simply click the ‘share’ icon at the top right of the player!


Be sure to check out their newly spiffy website at and follow them on Twitter: @thepopups


Sound Bites for July

I don’t know about you, but this summer feels like it’s flying by. It’s been jam packed with swimming, camps, travels, popsicles, and binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.

And the field of family music is just as full this July! So, since I have a lot to introduce you to, let’s just dive right in.

The Jolly Pops is a great little band founded by three musicians/fathers: Ryan Ecklund, Billy Hartong, and Angus Clark. Their newest CD, I Didn’t Do It clearly shows that these are fathers who know what kids like. If your kids favor musicians like The Imagination Movers or Suzi Shelton, they’ll love The Jolly Pops.

Their sound is a wonderful mix of rock and pop with solid vocals, driving guitars and kickin’ drum beats. It’s a sound that adults can identify with, but contain lyrics that showcase the band’s ability to “get” kids.

For instance, fun songs like “Popsicles” and “Chicken Nuggets” will appeal to young ears and appetites. “Alligator Dance” is a bright new-wave song that brings back memories of me dancing to “Safety Dance” in my teens. “I’m Mad” and “Feelings” teaches kids it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. And “Mama’s Not a Monkey Bar” falls in to the camp of things you never thought you’d say as a parent.

With appearances by the lovely Suzi Shelton and others, The Jolly Pops might just be that missing piece to your family’s music collection.

You can find The Jolly Pops I Didn’t Do It on their site and CD Baby.

Somewhere Beautiful by Roses For Panjo is one of those albums that I listen to and can’t get enough of.
From the first few notes, I fell in love with Tanya Leah’s crystal clear and spellbinding voice. Created for her father after he suffered a stroke to help soothe him, Somewhere Beautiful is a mellow album that you’ll want to put on repeat.

While not designed as children’s album, it is great as a family album, and something you could put on while reading books or getting ready for bed. Tanya Leah’s sound is a similar flavor to Shawn Colvin or Norah Jones, and shines on her latest album.

Standout songs on the album include the uplifting title track “Somewhere Beautiful”, the upbeat “Signs of Spring” and her dreamy rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

Roses for Panjo’s Somewhere Beautiful is available on their site and iTunes.

Putumayo Kids has a knack for transporting me to another world, and they’re back with their latest collection to sweep me away to the land down under with Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground. With songs by Australian singer-songrwriters and Aboriginal groups, and mentions of kangaroos, vegemite and kookaburras, I can’t help but feel a bit Aussie. Don’t worry, though, this isn’t The Wiggles.

I am amazed by the variety on the album, and the tunes are vastly different but feel like a coherent group. There’s a bit of pop and folk (Bob Brown’s “Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees,” Joe Hall and The Treehouse Band’s “Loose Change,” Don Spencer’s “Kangaroo,” and the beguiling voice of Rosie Burgess on “Random Acts”), to  island music similar to Carribbean music (The Neo and Garrangali’s “Let’s Go” and Garrangali’s “Mirri”), to what we classify as more “world music” (Kamerung’s “Seisia” and Seaman Dan’s “Mango Rain”).

And what Australian album would be complete without a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”? Lazy Harry provides a lovely version of the best-known Australian tune.

A percentage of proceeds benefit the Australian Children’s Music Foundation which provides music programs to the disadvantaged. Liner notes provide insight about each musician and song, making the album a complete educational experience. And as a bonus, it also includes a kid-friendly Australian recipe for damper bread.

Putumayo Kids Presents Australian Playground is available from Putumayo Kids’ site,  iTunes, and Amazon.

Seattle band The Not-Its‘ distinct sound sets them apart from many other children’s musicians. Being veteran punk rockers, there is some seriously rockin’ music back behind those kid-friendly lyrics, sung with gratifyingly edgy voices. And now, they’re back with their fifth album (and the follow up to KidQuake!) Raise Your Hand.

Parents, brace yourselves. You may find yourself listening to this when your kids aren’t around.

The Not-Its understand what kids go through. Their struggles (“Funniest Cat Video,” “When I Fell (The Scab Song),” and “Waiting List”) and preferences (“Flannel Jammies”) get some attention through lively harmonies. Summer-appropriate songs of insects (“Mosquito Eater”, and “Bee’s Knees”, a save-the-bees/save-the-planet anthem) and outdoor activities (“We’re Gonna Hike”) demonstrate The Not-Its humor and fun.

And there are some goodies for the parents too. “Motorcycle Mom” paints a picture of a biker mom who tears up the PTA. And “Hey 80’s’ had me nodding my head at every reference. (If you’re a child of the 80’s, it would be fun to go through this song and explain every line.)

“Love is Love” may be one of my favorites on the album, and speaks to the idea that while the definition of family is changing, the foundation of love is the same.

Other great tunes include the title track “Raise Your Hand,” “Haircut,” and “Nose In a Book.”

And check out the video for “Haircut”!


The Not-Its’ Raise Your Hand is available July 15th on their site.

Remember “Baby Beluga”? Or what about “Down by the Bay”? And I think I played “Bananaphone” for my son as a toddler more than I thought humanly possible.

If you know what I’m talking about, then you surely know Raffi.

It’s been twelve years since he’s released an album of children’s songs, but he’s back with Love Bug, an album that was certainly worth the wait.

Raffi still has the ability to capture your attention, creating catchy tunes and heartwarming lyrics. The 16 tracks on Love Bug feel like a treasure chest, filled with all sorts of gems sure to appeal to every taste. It’s a journey through love, the magic of childhood, and the majesty of nature, accompanied by Raffi’s melodic strengths and alluring voice.

“Seeing the Heart” glistens on the album, and is my new favorite love song, reminding me of the purity of a child’s heart. “Magic Wand” feels like a wish list from every parent of a new baby for what they hope the world would be for them. Raffi infuses this hope for a better world and a healthy planet, filled with love, in songs like “Blue White Planet” and “Turn this World Around.”

But he hasn’t lost his aptitude for creating catchy and entertaining tunes such as “Mama Loves It” and “Doggone Woods.” “Cool Down Reggae” is a slow-paced tune that makes me want to swing on a hammock with my kids and chillax. If they’d let me, that is. And the instrumental tracks like “Wind Chimes” and “Pete’s Banjo” adds just the right amount of sprinkles to this delicious treat of an album

Raffi’s Love Bug will be available July 15th on his site, iTunes, and Amazon.

“Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music”

We listen to a whole heck of a lot of music in our house, and much of it is either family music, Disney soundtracks, or music that falls in any of the pop/rock/hip hop categories.

So, to shake things up, we often make a switch to classical music on Sunday mornings. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of coffee, reading the paper, and begging my daughter to please, for the love of all things, eat her vitamins.

And every time we go classical, I have the thought, “we need to listen to this more often.” Instead of wanting to bounce around the living room like rabbits on speed, my kids tend to gravitate towards coloring, reading, or puzzles while classical music is playing. The genre shifts the energy in our house to one that is a bit more calm. A bit more cerebrally stimulating. A bit more enchanted.

Now I have one more reason to crank up the classical music in our home.

Simply Fantastic

Author Ana Gerhard, concert pianist and music educator, has written a new book with an accompanying CD, Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music that is sure to fill your home with magic. It’s not just a book with a CD, it’s an experience.

Cover Simply FantasticThis gorgeously illustrated book (centered on the fantastical world of fairies, witches, gnomes, elves, wizards and the like) covers the Big Hitters of classical music such as Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, among others.

Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, La Scala Chorus and Orchestra, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the 20 excerpts found in Simply Fantastic span over 300 years of music history.

For each piece of music, Gerhard has provided brief descriptions that detail what magical creature the piece is about (fairies and their traits, for instance), and summaries of the plots of the ballet, opera or orchestral piece the work comes from. Often, she also includes bits of trivia regarding the composer and the impetus for the piece’s creation.

It’s a great primer for young ones to the world of classical music, and for adults, as well! I felt so knowledgeable after reading this with my children and found new appreciation of classical favorites. The vocabulary Gerhard uses is basic enough to help young readers and listeners comprehend the complexities of the composition, but not so simple that it won’t appeal to older audience.

To add to the magic of the music’s topics and Gerhard’s writing, Claudia Legnazzi created lush, vibrant illustrations that add a rich layer to the entire experience.


And, do I even need to mention how amazing this collection of music is? The CD includes pieces of music that are widely familiar and identifiable, some less recognizable, as well as many compositions that most of us can hum to, but may not know it’s origin. Songs like “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg), for instance. Look! It’s not just a commercial soundtrack!

As a dancer, I was pleased to see excerpts from ballets famous and not-so-famous, such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, “Dance of Terror” from Manuel de Falla’s Love, the Magician and “The Infernal Dance of Ali Kashchei’s Subjects” from Stravnisky’s The Firebird.

Many of the songs are short in length, perfect for a young listeners attention span.  The book’s selection of music covers a wide musical range, from the sweet and tender (“Dance of the Blessed Spirits” by Christoph Willibald Gluck) to the melodic and joyful (“The Fairy-Queen” by Henry Purcell), to the mischievously perky or dissonant (“Witches Dance” by Niccolo Paganini or “Pucks’ Dance” by Claude Debussy), to the intensely dramatic (“The Hut on Fowl’s Legs” by Modest Mussorgsky or “Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner.) All of the selections display just how powerful a piece of music can be.

Author, Ana Gerhard

Author, Ana Gerhard

Gerhard saved the best for last, with an amazing listening guide at the end.  It’s perfect for folks like me that love listening to music, but aren’t sure how to discuss what they hear in musical terms. The guide sheds a warm and knowledgeable light on what you’re hearing. I would recommend listening first, reading the guide, then listening again for a deeper experience.

Simply Fantastic: An Introduction to Classical Music is a book and CD that should be a staple in any home to young children. It’s available in the United States on June 17th.

But you don’t have to wait until then! I’m so excited about this book and CD that I’m giving one to a lucky reader! If you’d like the chance to win this extraordinary book and CD, it’s as easy as entering the Rafflecopter widget below by 11:59pm on Friday, June 13.  Open to anyone 18 and over in the contiguous United States.

Good luck!


Sound Bites: New Music for June

It’s that time of the year. School is letting out. Pools are open. Kids aren’t complaining of boredom. Yet.

But I know it’s coming soon.

My kids have a half-day left of school, and I will be spending those last precious hours trying to book camps and outings  to keep us occupied. Because lazy days of summer are fun for the first month, and then, we slowly start to implode as a family.

The past few years, we’ve crafted a Summer Bucket List, full of activities to do, places to visit, and things to see when we’ve exhausted the neighborhood pool and playground. We’ve started working on this year’s list already, and I’ve got one more thing to add to it:

Listen to awesome new music!

June Sound Bites.jpg.jpg

June is busting with all kinds of fabulous family music, and I am so excited to share some of it with you.

Eric Herman released Party Animal this past week, an album that delivers songs full of whimsy and quirkiness in a delightful package.

Eric Herman "Party Animal"The album boasts a hearty range of musical genres such as blues, country, rock and pop, and also features members of Recess Monkey, Chris Ballew (who you might know as either family musician Caspar Babypants, or the lead from The Presidents of the United States of America) and DidiPop.

Starting the album with “Up All Night”, Herman illustrates how adept he is at crawling in to a young mind and expressing those thoughts, hopes and thrills. “Up All Night” is a song about that all too familiar goal to stay awake until midnight for New Year’s Eve, though, probably even more familiar, not being able to make it.

Herman’s ability to create songs from a child’s point of view also shows in upbeat songs like “Party at My House,” “The Bicycle Song” and the energetic “November 1st.”

Funky tracks like “The Best Parts” and “A Million Ways” play nicely with quirky tunes like “Can We Buy a New Car (So I Can Have a Balloon)?” and “The Strange and Mysterious Fate of Mister Teddy Bear”

Rounding out the album is the track “Alive,” a charming life-affirming celebration of Herman’s deceased wife, who passed away in 2013.

Eric Herman’s Up All Night is available on his  websiteAmazon, and iTunes.


GRAMMY nominated musician Brady Rymer creates songs filled with humor, optimism and love. If Brady Rymer could call me every morning and sing to me as my alarm clock, I guarantee I’d have an awesome day.

Brady Rymer "Just Say Hi!"He’s back with The Little Band That Could for his seventh album Just Say Hi! A wonderful mix of musical genres, his latest album is the perfect summer soundtrack.

The title song “Just Say Hi!” sets the tone for the album, offering encouragement to listeners to meet new people and introduce yourself.

“Get This Party Started,” “Dance Till I Drop,” and “Gettin’ My YaYa’s Out”” are tunes that will easily jumpstart those morning pajama dance jams. Rymer showcases his range and mastery of different genres with the catchy ragtime jazz tune “Red Piano Rag,” as well as the zydeco sounds of “My Home.”

Mellower songs like the velvety “I Spin” and “Ice Cream Girl” beg you to relent to the lazy ways of summer and relax. Rymer displays his playful side with songs like “Pet Song,” a tribute to all those pet care takers that starts by sounding like Barry White but takes a Prince detour somewhere along the way.

“Tomorrow’s People” features a star-studded list of guests including Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell and Recess Monkey, and could easily be the “We Are the World” equivalent for the kindie music circuit.  Hearing all of those beautiful voices singing hopes for a bright future makes me all warm inside. And yes, Brady, I feel that better days are coming, too. 

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could releases Just Say Hi! June 17th.


Mister G "The Bossy E"And to help me not make the same educational struggles with my kids that I did last summer, Mister G will release his literary themed album The Bossy E just in time to get your summer brain back in gear.

Mister G (a.k.a. Ben Gundersheimer) sounds cut from the same cloth as my son – a lover of books and reading – and it shows in this album with his use of literary references and devices.  With his love of books in songs like “Love to Read,” “More Books for Me” and “Everything’s Free at the Library,” Mister B’s album could be the theme song for summer reading clubs.

The title track, “The Bossy E” educates listeners on how adding an “e” to the end of a word can change the sound to create a new word.  It’s a fun surf rock tune with guitars, saxophone, organ, and of course, lots of reverb.

And Mister G has released a new video for this tune, TODAY! Check it out:

“Aisle 3” (sounding similar to Matthew Sweet to me), about a kid stuck at a store with his parents and imagining what he could be doing instead, demonstrates Mister G’s songwriting chops with its sophisticated and catchy hook.

Other standouts on the album include the bossa nova grooviness of “Video Games, and “Standing on Top of My Head”, which is musically my favorite song on the album with its rolling melody and quirky lyrics.

Mister G’s The Bossy E will be available from his website (, Amazon and iTunes on June 24th.

And there you have it folks, just some of what we’re planning on listening to this month. The only thing left to cover as I close the books on another school year is this last pop quiz. What are YOU planning on listening to this summer?