All Those New Summer Jamz, Part 3

Voila, the final installment of summer jamz is here and it is a whopper! In this post, we continue to feature new summer albums that released in June, July, and August! Themes of fearlessness, optimism, and compassion abound. So, for your listening pleasure, Eat The Marshmallow presents New Summer Jamz Part 3:

SECRET AGENT 23 SKIDOO, Wake Up the Dream

GRAMMY winner Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is busy “spinnin’ the platters that matter most to your brain matter” in his latest concept album dedicated to probing the stuff of sleep. The album’s structure is based on 1970s late night radio. It’s the graveyard shift at WREM dreamtime radio hosted by DJs Sub C (your subconscious) and DJ Uncle Unc (aka your unconscious). Together they introduce the album’s tracks, update listeners on brain traffic reports, give subliminal weather reports, promote the idea donation drive, take calls from Free Will (who gives a shout out to his girl, Destiny) and lastly, spin musical interludes they dub as “Innerludes” that musically wander, lead into and riff off of songs featured on the album.

The songs themselves are smart, funny, fantastical and feature a musically toothy mixture of experimental and smooth jazz, funk, doowop, and of course, kid hop. Wake Up the Dream‘s overarching sound stems from the P-Funk All Stars. The musicianship and the production is on this album is stellar and absolutely does justice to Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s influences. The album kicks off with the 70s funk title track, Wake Up the Dream where the album’s main theme is revealed; pay attention to your thoughts, “shake it up, dream it first and wake it up, let your dreams wake you up.” But first, the album makes a little plea to remove those life distractions in order to be able to access the recesses of your mind. The doo-wop ditty Where Did the Magic Go? is the sonic version of “Care Bear stare”

via GIPHY 

smashing those invasive smart phones and tablets with rainbows manned by a dragon and a unicorn, determined to bring the magic back. Makeshift Spaceship is the result of getting an invitation from aliens complete with blueprints to build a spacecraft from random basement junk in order to receive a very important intergalactic message. The message: let go of fear and be set free. Musically the track itself shows off SA23S’s hip hop style and flow. The tightness of his style is contrasted by a smooth jazz interlude that comes in once all fear is let go. The song is a stand out track. Another stand out track is Tomorrow’s Yesterday, where the vocals have a Larry Blackmon/ Cameo flare. The song has you “eavesdrop on your deep thoughts” so you can hear your inner voice and know that one act of kindness in the present, pays it forward for a better future. And there you have it. The crux of the album, honor your dreams to create a better, brighter, more peaceful tomorrow. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo will have us remember, “A boring life is like giving your dreams a sedative.” It’s time to wake up your dreams and make them real.

 

BEST COAST, Best Kids

When the So. Cal surf-punk band Best Coast was approached to make a children’s album, the first goal for lead singer Bethany Cosentino was to make “a record for kids that isn’t your typical children’s album.” Mission accomplished. Best Coast’s first foray into the kindie scene, Best Kids, hits all quintessential elements that make up a children’s album, with covers  of children’s classics, songs about colors, dreamy candy lands, rainbows, and songs about togetherness and friendship– but while doing so, they turn convention on its ear by bringing their long-cultivated, Shin-Ei Wah Fuzz á la The Jesus and Mary Chain sound to the kiddie table. Hard driving reverb-fuzzed rock beats are sweetly contrasted with toy piano riffs, as in their cover of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This treatment is infused throughout the album, combining a darker, harder sound with lighter elements in the harmonies, catchy kid choruses, and layered upbeat instrumentation.

The vocal harmonies on the album give some of the songs a Lucius-esque vibe, most notably on When You Wish Upon a Star, Cats & Dogs, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Peanuts. On other songs, like on the covers of Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows and Rainbow Connection, Bethany Cosentino’s solo voice is made more prominent which gives the songs a similar presence to the songs of the Canadian indie pop punk band, Cub back in the 90s. The band also cleverly includes a reworked, family-friendly version of their 2010 hit When I’m with You to build a link between their indie and kindie audiences! The move is guaranteed to literally give the band generations of fans. The revamped song itself is made less languid/ more sweetly toned that the original, especially in its opening, and more uptempo throughout, replete with a chorus of kids singing backup. The theme: togetherness. The whole album is filled with positive, empowering messages. The band’s first original single Cats & Dogs (inspired by Cosentino’s internet-famous cat Snacks), presents the message “anyone can love anyone that they want,” regardless of what people say.

“The world is pretty wild these days and we just hope this record and these songs will bring joy and a smile to some faces that might need joy and smiles, no matter how old they are,” Cosentino said regarding the album’s release. Acceptance. Diversity. Choice. Autonomy. Daring to dream big. That’s what Best Coast’s Best Kids are given license to do. Who can’t get behind that?

Read more about Best Coast in this LA Times interview!

 

LUCY KALANTARI & THE JAZZ CATS, All the Sounds

Hot off the press, is the latest from Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats, All The Sounds; an album that celebrates the breadth and depth of the human experience, through the lens of our auditory sense. The album is a jazz-pastiche, introducing different music genres to the younger crowd through its 10 song set. There’s some swing, some dixieland, a tango, a sprinkling of opera and some other jazz sub-genres and fusions. Lucy Kalantari smartly uses these different musical styles, instrumentation, and vocal languages to expose young listeners to the rich diversity of sounds that surround us on a daily basis. Being engaged with the outside world keeps us curious, open, and willing to discover new sounds, tastes, sights, and smells!

The first single off the album is Sounds of Summer, a musical reminder of all those quintessential summer experiences told in little snapshots. These nostalgic moments of the past remind us to enjoy the simple pleasures of summer in the present. Some of these ubiquitous experiences Lucy Kalantari explores are not just pleasant periods but also challenging childhood moments, like being afraid of the dark. This fear is used as a metaphor for overcoming discomfort of the unknown in the song Are You Afraid of the Dark?  The song talks about changing perspectives and facing fears. There is possibly something to gain from remaining open to new experiences. It might just might turn out to be something good!

All the songs on the album are playful and sweet, but the crux of the album in terms of central messages come together in the last few tracks. Traveling’ All Around and All the Sounds invites listeners to open their eyes and take note of the greater world around them. In doing so, listeners realize that together, we make up the global community. By listening to all the sounds of the outside world we gain access to a richer and deeper inner world.

Hey New Yorkers! Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats have some shows coming up!

Saturday, August 25th, 12pm, Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats will be playing at McKinley Park Library, 6802 Fort Hamilton Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY

Friday, August 31st, 11:30am, Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats will be playing at Carrol Gardens Library, 396 Clinton St, Brooklyn, NY

 

FRANCES ENGLAND, Blue Skies and Sunny Days

Eight little songs can do a lot to lift the collective mood. This is exactly what kindie acoustic pop rocker Frances England set out to do in her latest album, Blue Skies and Sunny Days. It is the musical antidote we all need to counter act the mood-darkening effects of current events. Thank you Ms. Frances, we need this right now.

This collection of sweet, heartfelt and effervescently ephemeral songs captures the essence of little yet significant moments of childhood and parenthood. In songs like Carefree, Into the Wild, and Perfect Tuesday Afternoon, Frances England quietly and soothingly pulls listeners in by lyrically describing these little common moments in which we can all relate. Like when the “teacher keeps talking about the ABCs, I just keep thinking ’bout where I wanna be. My legs were made for running’ and jumping’,” we all remember looking out the classroom window, fantasizing about the wonders waiting for us outside.

In one track, Good Day, which sound-wise harkens back to the early Petra Hayden album Imaginary Land, gives us a little sonic pep talk. With simple percussive taps on the body of her guitar, along with looped vocal echoes, the song structurally mimics moments from Bobby McFerrin’s Circle Songs. Thematically, it speaks to savoring comfort of good company and familiar, grounding rhythms. It is a good day if we can be surrounded by those we love.

Frances England’s cover of the Cat Steven’s classic If You Want to Sing Out, brings out different moments in the song its original recording, and seems to brings a larger focus on living unhindered, without fear, by staying true to yourself. Admittedly, I am still personally attached to the original, in part, because of its appearance and significance in one of my favorite movies, Harold and Maude, but, still– a respectful shout out to Frances England for including it in the album. It’s a solid cover. Also, harkening back to the 60s and 70s folk protest rock tradition, Blue Skies and Sunny Days hits a political moment in the song Mama Said. Conceptually acting like a 21st century version of the Sound of Music’s, My Favorite Things, the song quotes our former first lady, Michelle Obama, “Go high when they go low.” In tough moments, Frances England reminds us to breathe, recall some wise words that Mama said, “Shine your light,” when meeting the challenges ahead.

As parents we are stewards of the next generation, we protect our kids’ childhood. So when the dog bites and the bee stings, simply remember that Frances England’s got your back, at least musically speaking.

 

GUNNAR MADSEN, I am Your Food

Do you have a budding comedian on your hands? Is your kid the one who who always goes for the silly in just about any situation? Have you taken your kid to see Weird Al Yankovic’s show? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then Gunnar Madsen’s latest summer release is the album for you and your family!

As the son of a sanitation worker, Gunnar Madsen has hauled and emptied many a trashcan in his younger, more formative years. The result? A longtime interest in food and the cycle of food production and waste. Now, that fascination with food has birthed a family music album dedicated, stem to stern, to that very subject. I Am Your Food is a silly sonic deep dive into machinations around the origins, production, presentation, and sensory symbiosis of food.

Joke songs are a tricky thing, but Gunnar Madsen pulls it off by being a talented and savvy pop music stylist. Madsen is dead serious about his jokes. “Just because it’s silly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be GOOD,” he states. Musical influences abound on this album. From The Doors to Talking Heads, Neil Diamond to They Might Be Giants, Madsen fuses his content with the perfect musical analogs. Egg Salad in the Sun uses that dark sound first cultivated by The Doors to give his audience a veritable feeling of bacteria multiplying on food left to its own devices under plastic wrap on a hot day. In contrast, the track In My Soup conjures images of David Byrne in his oversized suit, back floating in a giant bowl of consommé. What if I? sounds like Neil Diamond and an older Johnny Cash had a comedic love child, which oddly enough, perfectly pairs itself with the introspective questions that ultimately asks the listener whether love is unconditional, even if things are a little ridiculous.

Gunnar Madsen is testing you, and at the same time, he cares! He cares about your gut micro biome, as exemplified in Diet of Worms (the cure to an overly sanitized world). Food is the stuff of life. It defines culture, comfort, and love. So, don’t fear your serving of liver or starchy carbs–as aptly put by Gunnar Madsen himself, “This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus.”

 

KIRA WILLEY, Every Voice

Social-Emotional Learning advocate Kira Willey has just put out a new album that hopes to unify and empower children while getting them to move and groove with total abandon. “This record represents a bit of a new direction for me, and I’m so excited about it,” Willey says. “Social-emotional learning is critical for young kids, and I hope the themes in these songs of confidence, compassion and hope will inspire and empower kids to be their strong, capable selves!”

Sounds good to me! Opening with the anthem Brand New Day, Kira Willey sets the stage for what is to come in the subsequent songs, an over-arching message of optimism and inclusivity. The following track, Real Girl is one of the first songs I’ve heard in the realm of kindie rock that speaks specifically to the pressures of growing up female and resisting the “queen bee” culture. Willey calls out to the queen bees and wannabes, “Hey Girl, you could win an Oscar/ how you play girl/ you play that part, but hey girl, that’s not who you are/ Hey girl, this ain’t no play, it’s real life /Don’t read any lines off another girl’s page, you just gotta be you.” Putting a message out there to the pre-tweens and younger is important and starts to build a foundation for mindful, independent thinking. After all, real girls rule.

A little further into the album, Hello Hope asks listeners to dare to be unafraid of scare tactics meant to disempower people. Willey postulates that darkness exists so we can recognize the light within ourselves. Let the kids shine! The tracks Community and Roots  inspire grounded attitudes, independence, acceptance, service, and activism. Community was born out of Kira Willey’s own experiences working with hurricane refugees from Puerto Rico. This lady walks the walk and talks the talk. Her lyrics speak of big, soul-searching themes, but packages those messages in sweet, softly sung, up-beat pop songs. Sometimes strength comes in the form of softly spoken sentiments.

 

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