The Best Kids’ Music of 2014

Image Courtesy © The Okee Dokee Brothers

Image Courtesy © The Okee Dokee Brothers

Looking for kids’ music that won’t make you throw the CD out the window after you listen to it on repeat? We’ve got you covered with some of the best releases in 2014! With albums ranging from kids’ bouncy hip hop to foot-tapping tunes inspired by the Appalachian Trail, there’s something on this list that should perk up the ears of any young listener.

okee-dokee-woodsThe Okee Dokee Brothers: Through the Woods. Even if you’ve never heard music inspired by Applachian culture, the energy and charm of the The Okee Dokee Brothers’ songs will quickly win you and your kids over. Songs are lively, unique, and paint pictures of simple days spent in the sunshine.

 

 

Caspar Babypants: caspar-riseRise and Shine! Chris Ballew continues his streak of amazing kids’ albums with Rise and Shine! After last year’s Beatles tribute album, Caspar Babypants’ latest CD is a return to his fun new takes on old classics and upbeat original songs. Where else can you find an ode to a baby barnacle?

 

 

Recess-WiredRecess Monkey: Wired. Inspired by makers, dreamers, and inventors, there might not be a more perfect CD for a geek kid than Recess Monkey’s Wired. Rachel Cericola reviewed the album earlier this year, saying, “[It] should keep the entire family bopping, bouncing, moving, and grooving for most of the album’s 43-minute runtime.”

 

berkner

The Laurie Berkner Band: The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection. If a queen of kids’ music was ever to be crowned, it would be Laurie Berkner. The band’s sweet, silly songs are perfect for babies and toddlers, and this latest greatest hits collection gathers some of the best in one place. With 22 songs collected from six of the band’s CDs, this is great starter collection of music for a new baby in your life.

 

perfect-quirkSecret Agent 23 Skidoo: The Perfect Quirk. Skidoo mixes beats and rhymes to bring hop hop songs to kids that will truly get them hopping. The Perfect Quirk celebrates individuality and the fun spirit of childhood, including a one-of-a-kind take on imaginary friends and an ode to epic pillow fights.

 

 

123conandresAndrés: 1 2 3 Con Andrés. With bilingual songs the entire family can enjoy, 1 2 3 Con Andrés is a fantastic introduction to Spanish music and culture. “If I Had A Mariachi” is a delightful song that joyfully teaches kids about the instruments used in mariachi music.

 

 

shy-kid-bluesHullabaloo: Shy Kid Blues. Part story and part catchy folk music, Shy Kid Blues tells a tale that many geeky kids can identify with: A painfully shy kid named Steve works to overcome his timidness with the help of his outgoing best friend. The story is so fun to listen to that you might find yourself listening to the entire album from start to finish each time you press play.

 

bari-koralBari Koral and the Family Band: Apple Tree & The Honey Bee. Up-tempo songs, many with a country feel, covering favorite toddler and preschooler topics from apple trees to big trucks make Apple Tree & The Honey Bee an ideal CD for a long car ride over the holidays.

 

 

raise-your-handThe Not-Its!: Raise Your Hand. Elementary-age kids will dig the songs on the fifth album from The Not-Its!, with topics including cat videos, scabs, bees, and more. The punk-inspired songs feel less like kids’ music and more like a rock album for the entire family to enjoy. (Parents might especially get a kick out of “Hey 80s,” a tribute to the most gnarly decade.)

 

rainbow-rocks-soundtrackMy Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Official Soundtrack. The pop songs sung by the Rainbow Rocks cast are just right for singing along at the top of your lungs. Not that I’ve, er, done that. Daniel Ingram continues the great songwriting work he’s done on the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series with songs worthy of a battle of the bands.

 

 

GeekMom received promotional copies for review purposes. All album covers copyright of their respective holders.

Chris Ballew: From Rock Star to Tot Star

The first time my daughter and I went to a Caspar Babypants concert in Seattle, we pushed through a crowded room full of excited tots and their parents to find a seat. After finally sitting down next to a mother holding a baby, she leaned over and asked, “How many Caspar concerts have you been to?” I smiled and answered it was our first. She nodded and said, “That’s nice. This is our seventh.”

Caspar Babypants at the Seattle Public Library / Photo: Charlie Bartlett (Used with Permission)

After experiencing the fun and exuberance in that first concert, and many more after, I understand why that mom and many others are diehard Caspar Babypants fans. From an ode to googly eyes to the life of a flea with dogs, and new takes on old favorites like the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Caspar Babypants’ songs are catchy and imaginative.

Caspar, also known as Chris Ballew, is releasing his fifth album Hot Dog! on April 17. Not only does he write and perform children’s music, Chris Ballew is also the twice Grammy-nominated lead singer of the alternative rock group Presidents of the United States of America. I was curious about his background and work, and Chris graciously agreed to answer some questions for me here on GeekMom.

GeekMom: How did you create the name Caspar Babypants?

Chris Ballew: Well, I got kind of bored with my first name back in the early 90s and decided to change it to Caspar. So I tried that and then one winter when the snow came I was cold and had no winter hat. I went to a “free” store for people that needed winter clothing and found this little unique pair of hand knitted baby’s pants. I put them on my head and they fit perfectly. The kids in my neighborhood started calling me “babypants” as I walked by and I put it with Caspar, and the name was born. Years later as I started doing kids music and was considering what to call it, I remembered the old nickname and thought it was perfect!

GM: What inspired you to shift your career from rock to children’s music?

CB: I had been looking for my real voice for years even as the Presidents were topping the charts. I had this haunting feeling that I had not found my true musical self even as I was appearing on late night TV and MTV. Years and years of searching on the side led me to this simple innocent music for kids by way of my wife Kate and her art. When I saw her art, a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that I wanted to make music that sounded like her art looked. It had an innocent, folksy, bright, childlike, intelligent and well-crafted vibe that I was immediately drawn to. I started to make that music and it turned out to be kids music!

Hot Dog! © Aurora Elephant Music

GM: With Hot Dog! coming out this month, you’ll have released over 100 songs as Caspar Babypants. Do any stand out to you as personal favorites?

CB: Wow… that is a tough question. I record twice as many songs as I need for each album and only release the best of the best that I can do so I am physically unable to pick a favorite, I think. They are ALL my babies!! My current favorite to play live is More Moles from HOT DOG!. It is a really successful call and response with the crowd that always sounds amazing live.

GM: You’ve worked with some great artists on your albums, from big names like “Weird Al” Yankovic and fantastic singers like Charlie Hope. How do these collaborations come about?

CB: They mostly come about from me just finding people I like on the Internet and reaching out to them. Some are old friends like “Weird Al” and Krist Novoselic and some are new friends like Elizabeth Mitchell, Charlie Hope, and Frances England that I just contacted because I respect their work. Elizabeth Mitchell was really, really influential for me in the beginning stages of Caspar because I learned that you can be gentle and dear with a song and make the listener feel taken care of and calmed while maintaining some artistic edge.

GM: When you’re performing for a live crowd, which audience has the more enthusiastic fans — Caspar Babypants or Presidents of the United States of America?

CB: Well it is a different kind of enthusiasm so it is really apples to oranges. The rock crowd is a yelling sweaty jumping heaving drunken happy smiling mass of joy. The kids crowd is a random goofy smiling jumpy teetering unpredictable mass of joy. So there are some differences AND some similarities in there!

Caspar and Friends © Caspar Babypants (Used with Permission)

I love the kids for their randomness. They will walk up and talk to me during songs and tell me the funniest fragments of ideas and stories and their lives. I think I could do a whole show where I just TALK to them for 45 minutes!

GM: And finally, a question from my three year old daughter. “Is yellow your favorite color? Mine is pink. You should wear pink. But that would be silly.”

CB: HA! I have thought about wearing a different color for each album cycle. Maybe the dominant color for the album cover but I didn’t jump on that idea fast enough in the beginning. I LOVE yellow so crazy much. It is the color of energy for me. So I wear it for energy at every show be it PUSA or Caspar! YELLOW FOREVER!

Like his favorite color, Caspar’s songs remind me of a summer day: warm, happy, and full of sunshine. If you’re looking for new music to share with your tot that makes you both dance and sing, be sure to pick up Hot Dog! on April 17.