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Todd McHatton - Galactic Champions of Joy

McHatton Wows Again with 'Galactic Champions of Joy'

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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best kids music 2011

Todd McHatton - Galactic Champions of Joy

Courtesy Swoontoon
I like to think that part of the job of being a kids’ music entertainer is to challenge your listeners, to sort of scaffold them from basic, typical song structures and lyrical content to more challenging compositions, instrumentation, and mind-opening concepts. One of the best at doing that is Todd McHatton, whose psychedelic pop has entertained kids and their families for several years now. His latest offering, Galactic Champions of Joy, continues in his quest to bring sophisticated but amusingly imaginative songs to the ears of children and their grownups, and deservedly finds a place on our list of Best Kids’ Music of 2011.

The Artist

California-based Todd McHatton has been creating his one-man brand of psychedelic powerpop since 2008, when Grass Stained Twilight appeared along with a self-illustrated book of lyrics. The six-song Christmas Songs EP was released in 2009, followed by the brief 2010 single “Happy Birthday Harry,” his tribute to Harry Nilsson (the song is still available on McHatton’s website as a free download!). The full length Sundays at the Rocket Park came out later in 2010, and was chosen as one of the Ten Best Kids’ Albums of 2010 by Time Out New York Kids. Galactic Champions of Joy was released in the fall of 2011, followed by the holiday single “Perfect Pumpkins.”

The Music of 'Galactic Champions of Joy'

Galactic Champions of Joy is full of sounds inspired by the late-60’s The Who, with loads of slashing cymbals, stop-start rhythms, and ringing power chords. On the other hand, the album also features Tin Pan Alley-like tunes and clever word play inspired by songwriters like Harry Nilsson and Paul McCartney. A preponderance of tunes about animals find their way onto Galactic Champions of Joy, including “Say Hello to My Hippo,” “Bears Bear Bare Bears,””For Tea Birds in the Vast Nest,” “I Think I’m a Bunny,” and the two monkeys that are part of the negotiating deal in “This Tree House is a Bargain.” Galactic Champions of Joy gets pretty mind-expanding, as well, especially on the tunes “These Random Fields,” “For Tea Birds in the Vast Nest,” and “Future on the Road.”

Galactic Champions of Joy kicks off with a Who-like pastiche of insistent piano, shaking tambourine, and loads of vocal harmonies in describing how “Tommy had a Super Towel” that was used for everything except drying off. “Smiling’s My Favorite,” a favorite saying of good ol’ Buddy the Elf, is a swaying (but rocking) waltz that Harry Nilsson would have dug; while the thought provoking “These Random Fields” is reminiscent of Canadian band Sloan, and includes a ridiculously awesome guitar solo. The scatologically-tinged King Midas-like song about “Little Money Man” blends Tropicalia with a melancholy Paul McCartney-ish tune; and the ridiculously cheerful “Say Hello to My Hippo” warns against a pet’s flatulent tendencies.

More Music from 'Galactic Champions of Joy'

“Hauling Stars” sounds like an outtake from Electric Light Orchestra’s debut album No Answer, and describes the protagonist’s cosmic job of pulling fallen stars back to their proper place in the night sky; “Bears Bear Bare Bears” could be one of those “feel” songs Brian Wilson wrote for The Beach Boys in the late 1960s and early 1970s. “Get Down Dream Up” sounds a little like Stone Temple Pilots meet Weezer singing about playgrounds and imaginations, while the straight ahead powerpop of “Don’t Stop It Won’t Pop” describes a bubble gum blowing contest that results in friends gently floating away.

The driving “Future on the Road” encourages one’s sense of adventure, and the rockin’ “Dana Wears Dresses” talks about kids making their own decisions and following their dreams. The trumpet-filled samba of “Love and Dreams” progresses into an ”I Am the Walrus” ending, while the descending chords of “This Tree House is a Bargain” will again remind you of early Electric Light Orchestra. The quiet, cryptic “For Tea Birds in the Vast Nest” could be a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis song, while “Yes This is a New One” sounds like Jellyfish singing about, well, something or other (rockets, ideas, social movements?), and the back and forth dialogue of “I Think I’m a Bunny” would be right at home on an episode of The Muppet Show.

The Verdict

Todd McHatton’s Galactic Champions of Joy is certainly a challenging and dense listen, but is ultimately an entertaining and rewarding, musical experience. So, for all those kids’ albums that seem a little too simple and contrived, there exist CDs such as Galactic Champions of Joy, some of the best Kids’ Music of 2011, full of music that’ll make the entire family think as well as rock out.

Released September 21, 2011; Swoontoon

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