What We're Listening to Right Now #7
Oct 10, 2016
A couple of weeks ago, Tsh Oxenreider put up a post about the music they play in their home. She included twelve different playlists she's created for various moods and situations. For instance, there's a fall playlist (she's compiled playlists for the other seasons as well), one for dinner, and another for cleaning/working. I found the whole thing fascinating (not to mention, between the post and the comments, we have a lot of new music to try), but I also realized that I think I've made a total of one playlist in my entire life. And now I'm wondering, why? It sounds like so much fun to pull together music from different artists in order to achieve a kind of theme, however loose or vague it might be. So don't be surprised if sometime in the future, these music posts include some kind of personalized playlist.
However, when I'm listening to an artist for the first time, I prefer to check out an actual album because it gives me a much better impression of their style than a single track in a random playlist can do. (That post also made me realize that some people are much more serious and dedicated to their music than I am. Creating a bunch of playlists sounds a bit time consuming and overwhelming. I think I enjoy the convenience of popping in a CD from the library or letting Pandora create a playlist for me.)
Anyway, here are six albums we've been listening to a lot lately:
1. Make a Circle by Jennifer Paskow*
I think I have a fairly high tolerance for children's music (higher than Mike anyway), but lately that tolerance has plummeted. I can't even tell you how many children's albums I've checked out from the library over the last four months that have all been promptly returned on our next visit. They vacillated between being obnoxious and loud, stupid instead of funny, or just a copy of someone else, and I just couldn't handle any of them. That's why when I listened to Jennifer Paskow for the first time, it was like a breath of fresh air. Like, I think I may have actually sighed in relief because it was just so pleasant and such a welcome contrast to the other things we'd been listening to. Her voice hits on all the right tones, creating a combination that is at once easy and light-hearted and sweet. I could seriously listen to her all day. The message of this album is about loving yourself and loving others, two concepts that are so important for kids (and adults!) to internalize. Nothing about this album screams "kids' music" (which I love), and yet it feels like a safe and happy place to be, and that's exactly what a children's album should do.
Favorite Song: "The I Love You Song" (it's just so catchy!)
2. My Heart by Sissel
When we got back from Europe, I longed for something to listen to that would remind me of where we'd been. The only Norwegian singer I knew was Sissel--my father-in-law has always been a fan of hers--but I had never really listened to much of her music. (This could be due, in part, to the fact that when she sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at their 2006 Christmas concert, Mike and I had tickets, but we didn't make it into the hall until twenty minutes before the concert started (the tickets said you had to be in your seats a half hour before show time), and by then they were already letting in the standby lines. The ushers shuffled us from section to section and finally told us we'd have to watch it in the overflow theater on the screen. Ever since then, I think I've always associated Sissel with extreme disappointment.) But after we got back, I checked out one of her albums, and I fell in love. Her voice, while classically trained, is not overbearing but crystal clear and gorgeous. And as an added bonus, it feels perfect for fall (so if I ever make a seasonal playlist . . . ). She's probably not my kids' favorite, but sometimes I get to listen to what I want to.
Favorite song: "Tristezze" (the lyrics are set to Chopin's Etude in E major, which was a favorite of my piano teacher growing up, and Sissel's voice just fits the melody so well)
3. A Celebration by John Williams & The Boston Pops Orchestra
My dad has always loved the Boston Pops. That love has carried over to me, and it was time to pass it on to my kids. I kind of cheated: this album has the Star Wars Theme on it, so it was bound to get their attention, but they've enjoyed the other songs, too. I don't see how you couldn't enjoy them actually--that big band sound is so invigorating (if I were making a cleaning playlist, some Boston Pops would surely find their way on it). It makes me want to dance, and not just because my dad used to spin me around the room to, "In the Mood."
Favorite song: "Star Wars--Main Theme" (obviously), but my favorite is actually "New York, New York"
4. Senior Piano Recital by Anna Nielsen
It's completely unfair of me to put this on the list because there are only a very limited number of copies in circulation. My younger sister, Anna, graduated with her bachelor's in piano performance last spring, and this is the recording of her senior recital. I went to the actual performance and was completely blown away. I mean, I knew she was good, but this was beyond good. This was emotionally moving, powerful, gorgeous. After the performance, I begged for a copy of the recording, and she kindly obliged. It's been so fun to listen to it over and over again and think, That's my little sister! (My kids love to tell me that she can play the piano better than I can; they don't realize we're not even in the same league anymore--she surpassed me a long time ago.)
Favorite piece: When I heard her perform live, it was "Nocturne in B-flat Major" by Gabriel Faure, but now that we've been listening to it in the car, it's "Novelette no. 2 in B-flat Minor" by Francis Poulenc.
5. Songs from the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers by various artists
Okay, this is totally nerdy so forgive me. I've been a fan of Mister Rogers all my life. His was a unique, one-of-a-kind show. The combination of songs, an ongoing story enacted by puppets, a field trip to somewhere fascinating (anyone else remember the dominos episode?), and heart-to-heart chats with the man himself have not been duplicated in children's television before or since. I was thinking about it recently (probably because my kids were watching the spin-off show, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood), and I wondered if any other artists had ever recorded the songs of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. A quick search led me to find this album, which has some of the best-loved songs from the show, including "Won't You Be My Neighbor?," "It's You I Like," and "It's Such a Good Feeling." They're performed by various famous artists (although, if I'm being honest, most of the names are unfamiliar to me). Some I like better than others, but the thing I love is the nostalgia that washes over me whenever I listen to them. Even though it's not Mister Rogers himself singing, the melodies and the lyrics are the same, and it's kind of fun to hear some different arrangements. (Oh, and as I was writing this up, I discovered that several of the original seasons are free on Amazon Prime, so I guess you know what I'll be brainwashing my kids with over the next few weeks.)
Favorite song: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (there are two versions, but I like the one sung by Jon Secada
6. Superhero by Laurie Berkner*
Out of all the music mentioned today, there is only one album that my kids love so much, they move it around from their room to the car to the family room, and this is it. As you know, we are huge Laurie Berkner fans (in fact, she's probably had more than her fair share of mentions on this blog), so of course we were thrilled when we heard she was coming out with a new album filled to the brim with brand-new, never-before-heard songs. This hasn't happened since 2008, so it's kind of a big deal. Even though I knew my kids loved Laurie Berkner ("We are the Dinosaurs" and "Rocket Ship Run" are some of our favorite kids' songs of all time), even I was surprised with how quickly they gravitated towards this music. Usually I'm the one to put it on for the first time, but they saw it sitting on the table and snatched it up. And ever since then, it's been on constant repeat. They have dance parties with it in the basement, they listen to it as they go to sleep at night, and they belt out the words when we're driving in the car. They love every single song on this album, and I do, too. Laurie Berkner has created another winner.
Favorite song: Of course we can't choose just one, but the three that sometimes get put on repeat because the kids love them so much are "Superhero," "Bicycle," and "Elephant in There."
That's it for this roundup, but of course I'm dying to know what you've been listening to lately. Please share in the comments!
*I received copies of Make a Circle and Superhero, and I was only too happy to review them. All opinions are my own--two thumbs up for both albums.