The Pop Ups are back with a new album dedicated to science! Giants of Science is a tribute to all the scientists whose work has contributed to making our collective lives better. I can’t help but think (though this is just speculation) that the inspiration for this album grew out of a side project in which The Pop Ups created an opening theme song for NPR’s science and technology kids’ podcast, Wow in the World. If you haven’t checked out that theme song, I’d highly recommend the song and the show, the theme song in and of itself is 35 seconds of awesome. And speaking of awesome, back to latest and greatest The Pop Ups album! Right from the get go, The Pop Ups are bringing a funk disco groove to lyrically discuss traveling light and shadow (the song features a rap bridge by Grammy winning kid hop artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo). After the first track, the album sonically follows a more synth pop/ LCD Soundsystem influence that listeners will recognize as the more classic Pop Ups sound (with the exception of track 9 that again, goes more for the 70s funk groove). The 4th track of the album, Synthesizer, cleverly illustrates how different shapes of synthesizer-generated sound waves appear to the ear. Were I to identify two thematically central songs on the album, it would be split between How Do we Know and Inventors. How Do We Know is the first single released off the album and features questions being answered by an actual scientist, Dr. Amanda Simson. This track is a kid pleaser with answers to questions like, “How do fish breathe?” and “explorations in proving food poisoning.” And of course, the track ends with a quote from the character of Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, “Back off man, I’m a scientist.” The second central track in Giants of Science is Inventors which celebrates the hardworking female inventors who invented things like windshield wipers and the gene editing tool CRISPR and calls on all the great inventors out there (encouraging the listeners to envision themselves as the next great inventor). As stated by the The Pop Ups themselves, “Every kid in every backseat (and parent in front seat) should feel empowered to change their own world. You too can be a giant. So get to it. We need you!” Giants of Science releases on May 18th.
Join The Pop Ups at their album release show at the Brooklyn Bowl, Sunday May 20th at 12:30!
Kids are naturally curious, and this curiosity (that often drives parents crazy) is exactly what the Portland band Ants Ants Ants celebrates in their debut album Why Why Why? The duo that comprises Ants Ants Ants both have their roots in the renown Portland independent music scene. This explains the band’s tight and distinct musical identity despite this album being their maiden voyage in the world of kindie rock. The influence of The Beatles can be heard throughout the album, and in particular echoes of Paul McCartney’s song writing aesthetic. This McCartney-esque style most distinctly shines through in the tracks, Six Pickup Sticks (a jaunty counting song with a kid-backed chorus), Pinwheel, and Willow Tree (featuring guest vocalist Nat Johnson where the songwriter sweetly machinates about a willow tree’s consciousness). However, it is the title track Why Why Why? that most succinctly encapsulates this duo’s artistic sound and energy. The song speaks to children’s endless curiosity and how this curiosity often goes unresolved simply because of our human limitations in knowing the unknowable. The album as a whole follows a rough narrative arc of a day’s cycle. The opening track acknowledges that morning time is rough on all of us, kids included! Morning Song greets us with an upbeat vibe encouraging us to simply turn that frown upside down and get kids movin’ and groovin’ first thing in the morning. The songs that follow are themed by the wonders of the natural world where questions lead to bigger questions until they reach an existential, universal level. Ants, the ninth track on the album, observes a line of marching ants and wonders if these hard-working little creatures wish to just “look up at the sky and dream away all day.” It seems like the ants could take a cue from the proverbial grasshopper and pause to enjoy a simple moment of playing in the grass instead of pressing-ever forward in their tasks (perhaps we should all take a cue from the grasshopper…). The album ends with a bedtime song, Stars, where listeners are lead to reflect on the day and then turn their busy thoughts to dreaming. Again, we are shown the cosmic juxtaposed against the details of the day. Thematically, Why Why Why? brings to mind a quote by William Blake, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour.” With that, I encourage you to check out the album for yourselves, let your mind ponder the infinite, and maybe answer some of your kids’ questions! Why Why Why? drops on May 18th.
Ants Ants Ants is planning a day of album release concerts at The Village Ballroom, 700 NE Dekum St, Portland, OR on May 20th. Shows at 3pm and 5pm!
On May 11th, beloved Brooklyn-based Kindie artist Suzi Shelton released a new album, Hand in Hand. As the title suggests, the album centers around themes of inclusion, self-esteem, and kindness. These themes, enveloped in danceable infectious tracks are sure to appeal to a wide swath of kindie rock listeners. For the younger set, there is a counting song, Ladybugs, that follows the “count down” narrative (think the Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed), a modern twist on the nursery rhyme It’s Raining, It’s Pouring in the track Raindrop, a song that hinges on the listener’s anticipation for the lyrical reveal The Grass is Always Greener, and a jazzy track called Blue Fin that cycles through the primary colors in association with sea creatures. With her background in early childhood education, Suzi Shelton puts her insider knowledge to good use! For older kid appeal, the opening track, Put Your Hands in the Air, is a positive, energizing track that brims with empowerment and joy. And who, really, doesn’t need a little more joy in their lives these days? Another standout track that will appeal to the older set is Never Let You Go. Opening with the delicate, toy-like sound of the ukulele, this song has a sweet pop melody that transports the listener to a magical happy morning space– ready to greet the day filled with love and warmth. The final track, We Shall Walk, ends the album with a message of togetherness, peace, non-judgement, and inclusion. Composed in the Doo-Wop style of rhythm & blues, We Shall Walk is written and performed by Suzi Shelton’s own 13 year-old daughter Emma (who is accompanied by her mother). As the VonTrap family taught us in The Sound of Music, a family that sings together stick together! Listen to Hand in Hand as a family, for it is really how it is meant to be experienced.
Suzi Shelton has some shows coming up! Join her at the Old Stone House on May 19th in Park Slope, Brooklyn for Slope Safety Day. Show starts at 11:30am!
Therapist and award winning singer/songwriter Vered has a new album that examines many aspects of family relationships, centering around siblings. Songs for Sisters and Brothers is a warm family album that explores the many facets and complexities existing within a sibling relationship. The album kicks off with a song that depicts parents taking their first child aside to tell them they are going to be a big brother or big sister in a track called You’re Gonna Be. The song is mellow and upbeat, anchoring the album’s overall sound solidly in the coffee house folky jazz/ swing genre. Despite the album’s mellow sound, the subject matter in Vered’s songs is anything but mellow. As a songwriter she delves deeply and humorously into the nuances of family life, and even questions the definition of what a family is, such as in the song One Family. In this track, Vered defines all of humankind interconnected as one expansive family. She imagines her Chinese brother or Kenyan sister mirroring Vered’s own daily activities. In a similar vein, she speaks to our interconnectedness in the song, Library of the World where Vered explores the idea of our lives being filled with borrowing actions. We borrow from each other and the earth and therefore must equally be prepared to give back. As aptly stated in the song’s refrain, “We take, we use, but by tomorrow, it may be time to return what we took, ‘cause we just borrow.” Further along in the album, Vered brings the listener back to intimate family life where we see that sharing is not always easy, but Sharing is framed humorously in a catchy calypso groove that really brings the spirit of the message home. The album also touches upon bittersweet aspects of family, as explored in one of the most tender and poignant songs called Little Bird. This song is from the perspective of a parent lamenting that she was not able to give the same amount of attention to her younger child as she did to her older one. She watches him grow from a distance, “like a bird who jumps out of the nest when no one is watching.” Vered displays the dichotomy of being happy to have raised an independent soul, but sad that the independence was born out of the necessity of her own maternal absence. The song musically mirrors this feeling in its spare and quiet vocal performance and instrumentation. The best, though, is saved for last in the song PR Agent. In it Vered describes how her children express the extremes of her parental existence. They are both her joy and her personal tormentors! She writes about, “when she is giving therapy, they drive (her) crazy.” Ironic and relatable! The album should be called Songs for the Human Condition! Check out Songs for Sisters and Brothers, out on May 18th.
Head to the Old Stone House Playground for an album release party in Park Slope, Brooklyn on May 20th, 11am to see Vered and the Babes perform live!