Just in time for the spookiest season, kindie party band Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies are here to haunt your Halloween festivities with a brand new album! Written over a period of 15 years, Mr. Singer & the Sharp Cookies whittled down their best Halloween-inspired tracks to bring you some monster musicality to help get your ghoulish groove on.
The album kicks off with Happy Halloween, an upbeat Halloween psyche up song that will prime the pumps as you and your family get ready to go out trick or treating (as if you really need to get psyched to go out for Halloween…but it is perhaps prudent to channel that excessive excitement into some dancing prior to hitting the road). Speaking of psyche up anthems, a second song in that genre pops up a few tracks into the album with a boogie-woogie Bill Haley-esque number, Ain’t Scared of Nuthin’. This song is dedicated to those kiddos who puff out their chest with a lot of bravado while attempting to tamp down their inner ‘fraidy cat. Another notable track (and a personal favorite) is Monster in Me, a song that addresses our dark side and gives it permission to shine! Fans of rockabilly will recognize hints of The Cramps’ fusion style. As Monster in Me draws to a close, little beastie sounds come forward (reminding me of The Night of Halloween by The Ophelias), and the song ends with a chomp!
The influences and musical styles explored on the album are vast, an obvious byproduct of an album 15 years in the making! From 50s-60s instrumental surf (Going to Ghost Town) to country (Grandpa’s Ghost) to B-52s circa late 70s (Insane Scientist Victory Blitz, a song which acts as a part 2 to She Writes Frankenstein, an ode to Frankenstein author Mary Shelley) and just about everything in between, the album still remains unified under its theme and under the presence of Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies own musical stylings.
Happy Haunted Halloween isn’t exclusively about delivering shivers. How Many Pieces of Candy? is a quiet counting song and Something Sweet for Halloween highlights, “These are scary times we’re living in, and it appears the bad guys have begun to win/So I’m not gonna be adding to the fear, I’m gonna be something sweet for Halloween this year.” Current day tensions might be scary enough to warrant a cute costume for Halloween this year! Whether you choose cute, sweet, or downright scary costuming, Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies should definitely be a part of Halloween soundtrack.
Good People of Chicago, there are some Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies shows coming your way!
Saturdays & Sundays, Sept. 29 – Oct. 27, Lincoln Park Zoo Fall Fest, Chicago, IL
Oct. 28, Album Release Show! 12pm, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL
Oct. 31, Halloween Show! Goudy Park, Chicago, IL
Keeping in theme with Halloween and unknown creatures from afar, we have a new concept album for the Pre-K–2nd grade set by the mother-daughter team, Ruth & Emilia! The Spaceship that Fell in my Backyard is an upbeat pop album with a theatrical/ broadway musical flare that follows the adventures of Emilia and her guest from outer space, Janet the extraterrestrial from the planet Goopda. Janet crash lands in Emilia’s backyard one night and spends the day with Emilia, singing, dancing and spreading important messages of universal peace.
The album is structured very much like a broadway musical with narrative songs that give young listeners pieces of the shared adventures of Janet the alien and Emilia the earthling. This is in keeping with their live shows where Ruth & Emilia perform a more complete narrative for their young audiences with costumes and simple sets. On the album, the songs are catchy, with simple refrains for the little ones to learn and sing along. The tracks are largely socially-minded and there are songs that celebrate diversity in the form of ballad soliloquies (This is the Way it Should Be), songs that are composed in the style of Dixieland jazz that speak to cleanliness and self-care (Everything is Better with Some Bubbles), and songs about environmental stewardship presented in a straight-up folksy country style (Repair the World). The messages are positive, forward thinking and hopeful.
Additionally, the album touches upon a very important aspect of diversity and friendship. Despite coming from two very different worlds, Janet and Emilia are able to form a strong bond with one another, enriching each other’s lives because of their differences. They have disco dance pajama parties and do all the things best friends do until it is time for Janet the alien to return home. All good things must come to an end, but the best things enrich your life and leave you wanting more!
Do some good with your purchasing power. Ruth & Emilia donate $1 from the sale of every album to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
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The season sometimes asks us to explore different sides of ourselves, largely expressed through the characters we assume during our Halloween festivities. Well, here is a debut album from an artist who has embraced his kindie alter-ego: meet Hopalong Andrew, the urban cowpoke! Hopalong Andrew’s origin story began when singer/songwriter Andrew Vladeck (best known for being a member of indie rock band The Honey Brothers with actor/musician Adrian Grenier) was employed as a New York City Urban Park Ranger. Assigned to patrol Manhattan’s Central Park, he used the character of Hopalong Andrew for public outreach, calling attention to the city’s natural resources, history, and multiculturalism (he even sings a song about it in the autobiographical track The Yodeling Ranger of Central Park). You gotta love people with layers… just saying.
Bringing a slice of the old west to the east coast (where he notably refers to New Jersey as “out west” in his ballad Bring Back My Cowgirl to Me), Hopalong Andrew enjoys the contrast and contradictions inherent in the idea of a modern urban cowpoke. In his album Howdy Do! Songs of the Urban Cowpoke, Hopalong Andrew musically pulls from the long history of cowboy songs, particular those made popular by the singing cowboys of the silver screen. By taking familiar western campfire folk songs and retooling the lyrics, Hopalong Andrew creates juxtapositions between old and new, east and west, urban and rural. The songs are familiar, easy to learn, funny, whimsical, and, at times, educational. There are some tidbits of good advice that apply everywhere such as, “Don’t eat yellow snow.” There are moments of library and research advocacy and, in Broadway was a Native American Trail, he calls attention to the Native Americans that originally inhabited Manhattan island. The O.G. New Yorker spoke Algonquin and Lanape, and they crossed the island on a trail that would become the famous Broadway! Certain things never change…
In the song, I’ve Been Everywhere in New York, Hopalong Andrew names all 105 neighborhoods in New York City and the outer boroughs while describing a very expensive and thorough cab ride! In the city, the jingle jangle sounds are not coming from spurs, but from spare change being collected to chase down the ice cream truck (as evidenced in the song, Ice Cream Dude). Though the song that ultimately encompasses the full spirit of the album is the track that sets up the album, Outside! Set to the tune of Rawhide, Outside! advocates for families to get out and experience the amazing city that is New York. This is the crux of the album, an homage to a city from the perspective of a seeming outsider who has found their perfect niche and wants to share all that he’s discovered. After all, “Life’s seldom a bore with the world at your door. That’s life in the city, Amen.” (Home on the Town)
Check out Hopalong Andrew’s World Premiere music video for Buffalo, Buffalo, dedicated to his father, Buffalo Bob:
THE STORY PIRATES, Nothing is Impossible
The theatricality continues in the debut release from The Story Pirates, a touring company that creates musical sketch comedy routines based on kids’ stories. All songs on Nothing is Impossible originally aired on The Story Pirates Podcast and is a compilation of stand out songs that grew out of children’s imaginations over the years. I tell you this, dear Marshmallow Peeps, to give you a little context. Knowing this little bit of history comes in handy when confronted with the first track on the album, a track Lin Manuel Miranda calls, “a masterpiece,” a song called Fart Out Loud Day. Out of the mouths of babes…this is what happens when you put kids in charge of subject matter.
Fart Out Loud Day announces itself in a funky 70s disco groove, telling listeners that on this very special occasion they can embrace their very own body music and let it fly with joyous abandon. If that hasn’t won you over, then perhaps the seasonally appropriate second track will. Frank The Monster Who Wasn’t Scary is an autobiographical tale, sung in the style of late 80s synth pop, about a scared monster who finally get his opportunity to shine as the singer of The Mad Zombies. Dreams do come true! As do nightmares, like in The Guy, where a self-identified lazy, chip-eating stick figure faces the challenges of living next door to his equally lazy, chip-mooching neighbor (all relayed in the theatrical hip hop styling of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince). Later in the album,The Story Pirates go flat out musical theater in the song How Penguin Office Became A Thing– a song heavily influenced by Little Shop of Horrors composer, Alan Menken. This album stays true to its title, nothing is impossible. Every oddball nook and cranny is explored thanks to the deep well of bizarre kid thoughts. There are songs about instagram-able unicorn knots, hot dogs vs pizza, seagull riding, and a penguin-filled office space to name a few of the eccentric song topics. And if these topics pique your interests, listeners can delve deeper into these curious tales through The Story Pirates podcast!
The subject matter of the songs are as disparate as can be, but there are some things that each song on the album has in common. Most obviously, the ideas are kid-generated (hence the weird and disparate subjects). But also, they are all, in the best sense, theatrical broadway versions of the various musical genres explored in the record. These songs belong on stage! But, if you can’t see them performed live on stage, you can create your own version in your living room. Which I highly recommend!
Check out the animated video for All 8 Unicorns:
‘Tis the season for donning a costume, and in case your penchant this year is to perch a tricorn hat on your head and a patch over your eye, then the latest album from Tom Mason and The Blue Buccaneers should absolutely be your soundtrack! If You Want to be a Pirate, Songs For Young Buccaneers is THE pirate album for your little ones Halloween/ Treasure Island festivities.
The album recruits little listeners aboard the pirate ship and sets sail to their imaginations, turning beds into boats and bedroom ceilings into constellation filled night skies. Once aboard, the adventures begin… and so does the work! Tom Mason does not sugar coat life on the high seas in the track, It’s a lot of Work to be a Pirate. Decks need to be swabbed, sails need to be hoisted, and everyone must pitch it to make the ship sea-worthy. A good lesson in working for a common goal for the wee scallywags!
There are a great many teaching moments peppered into the album’s richly layered sea shanties, rock ballads, and jigs. Kristofer the Kindly Kraken tells us to not judge by appearances and to remain open minded when confronted with something new and at first, frightening. My Invisible Crew teaches kids (and landlubber adults) positions and duties aboard a pirate ship, all while validating the importance of imaginary friends and their very real impact on children’s lives. Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers also advocate for better stewardship of the world’s oceans and seas in You Can’t See the Treasure Through the Trash. By indirectly referencing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as evidence of a “messy humanity,” the band takes it upon itself to clean it up as it benefits everyone, including those seeking treasure!
“As a band of pirates, we’ve spent a lot of evenings getting adults to get in touch with their inner child,” explains Mason. “I thought it was high time we helped kids do the same. It’s natural for both children and adults to be self-conscious and fearful, and all that shyness melts away when people pretend to be pirates.” So, perhaps before you go trick or treating, sing a few shanties alongside your own pirate crew and let the candy looting begin!