What We're Listening to Right Now #4: Six More Favorites
Nov 18, 2015
Between driving in the car, going to bed at night, resting for quiet time, and just dancing around, my kids listen to music and other things quite a bit. Even though I just shared nine of our current favorites a couple of months ago, I already have another little group. The thing is, every time I write one of these posts, you all come back with some really great suggestions, which we try out and usually love, so then I have more things to share. It's a vicious, but wonderful, cycle. Keep it up.
1. Here Come the 123s by They Might Be Giants
I can't believe it's taken until now to mention our love for this rock band. Although they've only been writing music for kids since 2004, they've been around since the 1980's. Mike was well acquainted with them before I brought home Here Come the ABCs (their first children's album) from the library, but the rest of us have been quickly converted. They have a dry sense of humor that makes Mike crack up on a regular basis, they're not afraid to use big words, and they explore a lot of advanced concepts and ideas. Their songs are educational while being highly entertaining and catchy. It's a winning combination. My kids also really love their videos. Oh, and I just found out that they're releasing a new album, Why?, at the end of this month. Just in time for Christmas.
Favorite song: "Seven Days of the Week (I Never Go to Work)" (Mike would love to take this one as his theme song. Someday, honey.)
2. We All Live Together by Greg and Steve
A couple of years ago, I was participating in a preschool co-op, and one of the moms made up a CD of educational songs from her childhood for us to use when we were teaching. I used the song, "Months of the Year" every time it was my turn because it was such an easy way for the kids to learn the names of all twelve months. It wasn't until recently that I figured out that that song was sung by Greg and Steve. They've been around for decades and many of you probably already know them from your own childhoods. I must admit that the album cover I'm showing here is not necessarily my favorite album of theirs. As of right now, we've listened to a number of their albums, and I haven't absolutely loved every single song on any of them (but I've liked the majority), so I just went with an album cover that I liked (some of their covers are a little strange). They sing a mix of well-known and original songs, and while I won't pretend that these songs don't sound like they were recorded in the 1980's (they totally do) or that they're voices are my very favorite (they're not), there's still something about them that hits a sweet spot.
Favorite song: "Months of the Year" from the album, Sing and Read with Greg and Steve
3. Laurie Berkner's Favorite Classic Kids' Songs*
Remember when I devoted an entire post to Laurie Berkner? Well, she's getting a second mention here because last month she came out with a new album, and it's pretty fantastic. When I interviewed her six months ago, one of the questions I asked her was about if she's recorded any favorite songs from her own childhood. Part of her answer mentioned that she was in the process of recording some traditional songs for an album that was to be released later this year. This is that album! And truly, it's quite an impressive collection--nearly sixty songs (and almost half of them brand-new releases), covering such favorites as "The Ants Go Marching," "A-Tisket A-Tasket," and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." These are songs that have been sung by generations of children, and now it's time to pass them down to my kids. It's surprisingly difficult to find a good collection of classic children's songs that are easy on the ears, but Laurie Berkner's voice and musical style are exactly right for the job. This will now be the album that I recommend to anyone who is looking for old favorites.
Favorite song: It's almost impossible to choose just one. I'm pretty sure my kids would choose "The Cat Came Back" until the end of time (they love that song), but one of our other favorites is "Shoo Fly."
4. Classical Playlist
This might be my favorite one on this list, maybe just because it's totally one-of-a-kind and you can't find it on Amazon (but you can create your own). So remember last time when I told you about the Classics for Kids episodes we were listening to every morning on the way to school? We're currently going strong on those (and listening to William Grant Still's segments this week), but I've been trying to figure out a way to capture and remember some of the things we've been listening to. I finally decided to choose one piece from each composer (preferably one of our favorites when we were listening to the episode) and compile them all into a classical playlist that we could listen to again and again. My kids have loved this. They request this playlist much more often than I would have predicted. They love reviewing details they remember from the episode, and they especially love quizzing Mike and seeing if he knows who each piece is by (the pieces by Kodaly and Kabalevsky totally stumped him). A couple of summers ago, one of our summer goals was to "Name that Composer." I intended to have the boys become acquainted with the music of five different composers, but although we listened to a lot of classical music that summer, none of it stuck. I just couldn't figure out a way to present it to them. But this Classics for Kids/classical playlist combination is it. My one tip would be if you create something similar, make sure you choose pieces in the 2-3 minute range. It doesn't matter how much your kids enjoy classical music, they're probably not going to stand for a 20-minute piece. They're just not.
Favorite piece: "Galop" from the Comedian Suite by Kabalevsky (look it up; it's a winner)
5. Jim Gill Sings Do Re Mi on His Toe Leg Knee
Jim Gill is another artist we've been familiar with for a long time but didn't really pin down who he was and what songs were his until recently (one of our librarians often plays his "Silly Dance Song" as part of storytime). Jim Gill's music has been around for more than twenty years, so I definitely could have heard his music when I was growing up (but I never did). His songs are silly and ridiculous and usually inspire some actions and movement. He usually accompanies himself on the guitar or banjo, and so his music has a twangy, country flavor that will make you start tapping your toes and clapping your hands. My kids can't help singing along with him. His enthusiasm and good humor are contagious.
Favorite song: "Spin Again" (Speaking of contagious, you'll get this one stuck in your head, but it's not obnoxious, I promise.)
6. Stories Podcast
My friend, Sarah, alerted me to this one. She knows that my kids, especially Maxwell, love listening to stories. While there are a number of story podcasts out there, this one is our current favorite because 1) It features traditional stories like The Ugly Duckling, The Three Little Pigs, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, 2) There are usually a few little unexpected differences to the original story that make it interesting to even an adult listener, and 3) most of the episodes are in the 10-20 minute range, which is just about perfect for Bradley. The narrator is not my absolute favorite (the different voices she uses are a little over the top, but this is a kids' show, so I won't judge too harshly), but one of the things I love is that each episode includes a little song to help tell the story. Overall, it's a really great podcast.
Favorite episode: "The Ant and the Grasshopper" (this is a lesson I would love for my kids to soak in and apply to real life)
That's it for now. What have your kids been listening to lately?
*I received a copy of Laurie Berkner's album and was happy to review it because we love everything she puts out.