This year saw an amazing range of wonderful, high-quality, entertaining albums for kids and their adults. Far be it for me to declare these ten albums the absolute best in the kindie rock world for 2011, there were tons of excellent kids' music CDs produced over the past year. The albums on this list are simply my personal faves for 2011, so I will declare the following list the Best Kids' Music of 2011 in alphabetical order.
The Boogers are more than just a bunch of guys pretending to be a punk rock band. Paul Crowe and crew are obvious devotees of The Ramones, and The Boogers translate that classic group's trademark sound into crunching but family-friendly originals and covers on their second CD Let's Go!Paul Crowe and The Boogers bring a breath of fresh air to the kids' music world with their punky musical style and their take-on-the-world original lyrics.
Released November 23, 2010; Spire Records
Todd McHatton's 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. Galactic Champions of Joy is certainly a challenging and dense listen, but is ultimately an entertaining and rewarding, musical experience, combining intelligent lyrics with a psychedelic wall of pop. For all those kids’ albums that seem a little too simple and contrived, there exist CDs such as Galactic Champions of Joy, full of music that’ll make the entire family think as well as rock out.
Released September 21, 2011; Swoontoon
Putumayo Kids Presents: Acoustic Dreamland, the fifth in Putumayo’s “Dreamland” series, culls 11 tracks from a variety of performers from both the grownup and family music arenas. The mostly acoustic guitar-based tracks on Acoustic Dreamland are so thoughtfully chosen that the album sounds like a seamless performance by various members of the same band.
Released February 22, 2011; Putumayo World Music
Little Nut Tree, the latest release by Dan Zanes and Friends, is pretty much everything you would expect from Dan Zanes, now a 10-year veteran of the kindie rock genre. Excellent song choices, great original tunes, earthy performances, and lots of twangy guitar vibrato grow and flourish on Little Nut Tree, Dan Zanes' sixth true kids' music release. The album also features guest appearances by Andrew Bird, Sharon Jones from The Dap-Kings, and ‘90’s Top 40 artist Joan Osborne.
Released September 27, 2011; Festival Five Records
Frances England's third album, Mind of My Own, continues her string of superb, organic, kindie rock tunes for kids and their parents. Even though her first two CDs of family music, Fascinating Creatures and Family Tree, were wonderful efforts of lyrical and musical thoughtfulness, Mind of My Own offers even more songwriting depth, and features guest performances by Mates Of State and The Jellydots' Doug Snyder.
Released November 9, 2010; Frances England
Morgan Taylor gets even more cosmic with the fourth installment of the Gustafer Yellowgold saga. Gustafer Yellowgold's Infinity Sock explores the intertwining existence of everything via mellow classic rock, and features a guest appearance by Wilco's Pat Sansone and John Stirratt. The combined DVD/CD package makes Gustafer Yellowgold's Infinity Sock an even more magical musical experience.
Released March 1, 2011; Apple Eye Productions
The Secret Mountain’s latest release, Songs from the Baobab: African Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes, is an incredible compilation of play songs, lullabies, call and response tunes, chants, and sing alongs that originated in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Make sure to find the book/CD combination, as the accompanying book includes striking artwork by Élodie Nouhen. The book also includes English translations of all the songs, a map detailing the geographical origin of each tune, and a thorough explanation of the history and meaning of each song.
Released October 1, 2011; The Secret Mountain
This is exactly the kind of kindie rock album that will make you (and, most likely your kids) sing along with gusto. Original Friend is Lunch Money’s third album for families, and the band’s songwriting skills, and Tor Hyams’ warm, clean production make the CD one of the best of the year. Original Friend could be listened to as a concept album of sorts, as most of the songs detail kids' inner thoughts and real-time conversations about friendships.
Released November 23, 2010; Squirrel Mechanic Records
Sing Along! is Chris Ballew’s fourth album of family music in three years, and includes almost two dozen tunes for kids and their grownups. Sing Along! follows Ballew’s familiar pattern of including inventive and catchy originals and re-worked and re-imagined nursery rhymes, but this time around the theme is call-and-response tunes, chants, rhymes, and sing-along songs. The prolific Ballew has filled four albums with almost 90 songs as Caspar Babypants over the past three years, and his creativity and imagination show no signs of waning with Sing Along!
Released August 16, 2011; Aurora Elephant Music
The three Seattle-based kindie rockers and elementary school teachers known as Recess Monkey have once again come up with the goods in Flying!, creating their seventh stellar album in seven years. Flying! represents a day or week in the life of a kid, including time at school, visits to Grandma’s home, sidewalk scrapes, and overcoming typical childhood fears. What's impressive about Recess Monkey is their ability to consistently (and quickly!) come up with inventive, catchy, thoughtful, and funny tunes album after album, and Flying! is no exception, showcasing Beatles-inspired tunes that would feel just as home on a kids' CD player or on a college indie music radio station.
Released June 21, 2011; Monkey Mama