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 April 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?




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?

I am a summer school slacker…

We had great intentions of riding the momentum from school and all that we’d learned as we entered in to summer vacation.  Workbooks were unearthed from the bowels of our playroom.  Pencils were sharpened.  I stocked up on patience

And then, summer happened.

Here it is, the end of July, and we haven’t opened a workbook or dulled those pencils.   Slap a big, fat “F” on our Continuing Education report card.

summer school

The only writing that has occurred has been a scribble on a birthday card or two.   The most math skills have come in to play is to tally the score on a Yahtzee roll or calculate how many minutes are left in a SpongeBob Squarepants episode.

We haven’t executed scientific home experiments, engaged in critical thinking and problem-solving games, or constructed elaborate and crafty architectural plans out of popsicle sticks.  By the looks of my kids writing lately, you’d think they never attended a day of school in their life.

One think I’ve deduced from this summer break:  I’d suck big time as a home school mom.

Summer is inherently a time to relax and enjoy a break from routine.  The pool calls and you answer.

While cleaning out a shelf in the kitchen last night, I found a couple of math sheets that I had pulled out of my sons folder on the last day of school.

Hey!  Look at this!  Maybe this will be something fun to do after dinner!

I was clearly delusional.

Sitting down with my son to work on some basic math equations, I was sad that the answers didn’t come as easily to him as they did at the end of the year.  And with every equation he got wrong, he got more and more frustrated.

Have I done my children a disservice by ignoring any kind of education this summer?  Is this the scenario educational folks use as an example to switch to year-round school?  With only three weeks left before the start of the school year, will my son be left in the dust by his mother’s laziness and procrastination?

I sure hope not.

Sure, we could have drilled math skills every day or sat down every morning and forced our kids to write until their fingers bled.  But who am I kidding? Getting them to finish breakfast is challenge enough.

Instead of being all smart and scholarly, we enrolled our kids in the School of Play.

My children aced in their courses of Harry Potter Reenactment, Successful Transportation Of Crap Downstairs To the Living Room, and How to Drive Your Sibling Batshit Crazy.

They learned the importance of ignoring wasp nests in the corner of the fort, but issued arrest warrants for lightning bugs.  Their bikes and slides and swings got an ample return of investment.  Bodies got muddy, or wet, or sticky.

My kids excelled in cannonballs and mastered the fine art of arm-pit farts.  Because I’m raising children that will do well at a frat party later.

I have to believe that all of these experiences contribute to a well rounded kid.  That like grass that goes dormant in the winter but comes back lush in the spring, my kids brains will bounce back to life in the fall and flourish, rejuvenated.

It’s how I was raised, and I can only hope that these different experiences enrich my children in ways that flash cards and worksheets can’t provide.

But perhaps I’ll let my son count the change from the ice cream cones for the rest of the summer.  Just in case.

Back in session…

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a post going up this week about how their kids went back to school, as it’s that time again.  The time when some kids are excited, some cry, where some parents cry and some get excited.  Me, I’m in the “skip on the way to the car” camp when school starts.  Not that I won’t miss my little turkeys, I will.  But school seems to start back right around the time when we’re all getting sick of each other and need a break.  School provides a routine, a rhythm that doesn’t live in the summer months.  And it gives me an easy answer five days a week when I get asked “Where are we going today?”

Mr. B started First Grade.  And I think he was pretty excited about going to a new school.  The day before, he tried on his dress code clothes, and seeing him there in his belt and blinding-white sneakers, I almost lost it.  First of all, this is the first time I’ve seen him in a belt.  Poor kid weighs about 37 pounds on a good day before pooping, so we usually stick to elastic pants if we can.  He had his shirt tucked in, also a first.  And he’d gone to great lengths to comb his hair and style it to the side.  But it wasn’t just what he was wearing on his body.  It was that proud, handsome smile he adorned that melted my heart.  A look that seemed to say “I’m a big kid now.” 

I was glad to see that my little Peanut is not a wee person in a room full of giants, but that he seems to fit right in.  There seems to be a calmness in the room when we go in in the mornings, as all the students who have arrived are already busy doing their Morning Work.  It’s an energy unfamiliar to Mr. B, and I’m not sure if he knows what to do with it.  He’s an active, squirmy kid, full of enthusiasm and energy.  And this, being First Grade and all, is more serious than he’s used to.  A part of me worries that it will be too structured, that his spirit will get broken.   Only time will tell…

He’s telling us that recess is his favorite part of the day, so at least he’s consistent with last year’s favorites.  This is the first time he’s eating lunch in a cafeteria where he gets to pick his own food, and he did open up and tell us that the lunch was “really good.”  So we asked him what he had for lunch.  “Chicken.” (not bad, I think) “oh, and a bagel…and some crackers…and some croutons.  They have the best croutons.”  That’s my little carbohdyrate!

Miss P also started Preschool five mornings a week.  We ponied up the extra cash to let her stay for lunch, which she was excited about.  The school had a few opportunities for her to go in before school started to check out the room and meet her teachers.  The first day was a “soft start,” meaning the parents would hang out with the kids for an hour, then we’d take them home and release the hounds fully the next day.  But Miss P?  She didn’t want us to stick around.  Miss Independent.  Sure, I wanted to pull my hair out when she was an infant and displayed super-early separation anxiety, but my pediatrician gave me hope that she’d grow out of it sooner than most kids.  Boy was he right.  Her first day of school, she took off like a rocket, plunging herself in to the room and getting right to work on the wooden kitchen.  I still can’t tell how she likes it or what she’s doing, as every question asked to her in the afternoon about her day gets met with a “I don’t know.”  So far, she hasn’t asked NOT to go, so I’ll take that as a sign that things are going well. 

The hardest change has been the mornings.  Last year we lived 5 minutes from school that started at 9am.  This year, we’re a good 30min drive with morning traffic to get there at 8am.  That means leaving at 7:30, getting the kids up at 6:30 (and for me, getting up at 6am).  Considering that towards the end of summer, we were waking up for the day at 7:30, it’s been rough.  The kids are used to lazy, leisurely mornings where they eat a long breakfast, lounge in their pajamas and play for a while before having to get ready to leave.  Now we’re speeding things along a bit. 

And one thing I’m not a fan of?  The drive.  I have one drop-off and two, TWO pick-ups.  Which means I’m in the car for 3 hours a day.  After a day or so of this, the kids got sick of listening to music and begged for my iPhone or something.  So we made a compromise and checked out some books-on-tape from the library.  Surprisingly, it’s been a big hit!  We’re already through two books and on to another. 

This idea should tide us over until I hit the lottery and can hire a chauffeur.