Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kick-A** Kids' Music (....for parents)

When pressed, I will admit to having a soft spot for Raffi ("Banana Phone" has inspired some entertaining variations online). Like many parents, however, children's music is something I suffer through for my kid's sake. (I sometimes hide the really saccharine stuff.)

In my son's second year, I remembered a story I had heard broadcast on the CBC's Definitely Not the Opera about alternative kids' music and, after a little digging on Google, I rediscovered Somebody Needs a Timeout, a 2-CD benefit compilation from 2002 featuring 41 Canadian artists.

This find led to other gems including Snacktime by the Barenaked Ladies ("7 8 9" is requested by my son at least 10 times a day), They Might be Giants' many children's albums - I especially enjoy No! and Here Come the 123s - and my particular favourite, The Bottle Let Me Down: songs for bumpy wagon rides.

The Bottle Let Me Down is a kick-a** collection of alt-country music that will have the whole family up and stomping around the living room. My 20-month-old son and I doe-see-doe to "Hinky Dinky Dee" by One Riot One Ranger (it's his second-favourite song after the Ladies' "7 8 9"), while my partner and I gleefully sing along to Robbie Fulks' rather un-P.C. song, "Godfrey".

Thankfully, plenty of other musicians are responding to the desperation parents like us feel to find "kids' music that doesn't suck"; there's even a Facebook group by this name. If you've come across an album that's worth mentioning, please, PLEASE submit it in the comments. My partner and I thank-you.


  1. Hi Zoey: I've found most selections of the label "Music for Little People" to be great. We have lots at the library. They use well known artists, and the CDs usually have a theme - "World Music", "Broadways Hits", etc. Many of the titles start with "A Child's Celebration of..." If you like folk music, try Tom Chapin, brother of Harry. I particularly like "Family Tree"

  2. I put together a listening list a while back ..... teh Elizabeth Mitchell one in particular is beautiful - enjoy!

    Catch That Train by Dan Zanes.2006.Homespun new-folk oddball fun with guest spots from The Blind Boys of Alabama and Nick Cave.

    Class of 3000 by Andre 3000 . 2007.
    This animated show soundtrack from the ‘Outkast’ crew is a kid-friendly funky mix of urban beats and styles with a playful touch

    For the Kids 3 by Various Artists. 2007.
    Billy Bragg, Tom Waits, Cake, Sara McLachlan and more do it for the kids in this gentle, upbeat collection.

    Here come the 123’s by They Might be Giants. 2007.
    Counting fun from wacky indie scene faves TMBG, with accompanying DVD with animations and puppets.

    Jazz For Kids: Sing, Clap, Wiggle And Shake by Various Artists. 2004.
    Classic jazzy fun from Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Prima and the irrepressible vocal stylings of Slim Gaillard

    Snacktime by Barenaked Ladies. 2008.
    BNL serve up original songs for children with an accompanying book. There’s songs about raisins and ninjas, mixed with bits of bluegrass and reggae. Their “Snacktime trilogy” features a wide range of guest phone callers who announce their favourite snacks - a wide ranging bunch including Geddy Lee and David Suzuki....

    World Music For Little Ears: Authentic Lullabies From Around The World by Various Artists. 2000.
    This collection of lullabies from around the world will ease your little ones to sleep with gentle lyrics sung in native tongues.

    You Are My Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell. 2007
    Acoustic guitars, sweet family voices, covers of Velvet Underground and Bob Marley tunes as well traditional children’s’ songs beautifully sung in Japanese, Korean, Spanish and English..

    Home Schooled: The ABC’s Of Kid Soul by Various Artists. 2007.
    Quite an exceptional oddity, this superb compilation features 1970's recordings from amazingly talented and funky kid soul groups, following a trend set by the Jackson 5.

    The Tragic Treasury: Songs From A Series of Unfortunate Events by The Gothic Archies. 2006.
    Dark fun with songs like "Scream and Run Away" and "Smile! No One Cares How You Feel", with Lemony Snicket on the accordion.

  3. A favourite of ours is "For Little Ones" which is a result of the collaboration between singer-songwriter Colleen Power and bluegrass group Crooked Stovepipe (all from Newfoundland).

    There are some kiddie standards like "Muffin Man" and "Around the Bay" (their NL take on "Down By the Bay") as well as some original tunes like "Uncle Wally" and "The Banana Song" which are certainly child-oriented in their subject matter but not objectionable to parents' ears. And then there's "Clare Marie" (an ode to Ms. Power's daughter) and "Morningtown Ride" that are a little more grown-up. It's always in rotation on our rides to school and daycare and often gets left playing even when the kids are gone!

  4. Kimya Dawson! She is a sweet punk folk singer (who also did songs on the Juno soundtrack and was in a band called the Mouldy Peaches).
    Her album Alphabutt is at the library, it is awesome and funny and clever for both kids and grown-ups.

  5. I was going to add Kimya Dawson! Alphabutt has become a new favourite at our house. I like "Little Monster Babies" and my son loves "Bobby-O".

    Thanks to you all for the suggestions!

  6. I have another good suggestion to add: the Library recently added John and Mark's Children's Record with 11 funky-folky tracks of silly kids' music.

  7. Found another good one! Rockabye Baby: Lullaby Renditions of Green Day:|library/m

    Kid tested, Mama approved.


    You need to check this one out!