Thursday, October 12, 2006

***The Jellydots***

This is it, folks. You're looking at, and will soon be listening to, the future of Kids' Music. Like trying to find the horizon from the shore through a misty fog, genre lines have become so blurred that soon we can simply say, this is music. Period. The fact that this music can't be shoved into a specific category speaks volumes of the increasing confidence in kids' taste and intelligence, that you don't have to skimp on talent or effort just because it's an album for children. In fact, more and more artists are putting extra effort into children's music because of the fact that it's a kids' CD.

So, welcome to our world, Jellydots! a band so good it's a shame they're not pop stars, but, luckily for kids' music fans, are guaranteed to be h-u-g-e within the next year. If you need a musical peg upon which to hang this unique hat, think Jason Falkner playing Schoolhouse Rock songs with Elliot Smith's writing help ... and we'll come back to that later.

On "Hey You Kids!", yer gonna hear songs about the important minutia of childhood memories: a square of sunlight on the bedroom wall, the blue-green eyes of a new kitten, using both hands to eat a cookie, the longing plea for one more glass of water in order to stave off sleep. But hidden within these deceptively simple superpop kids' songs are messages of self-importance, of the assurance of being comforted, of retribution and its consequences, of the humanizing effect of connecting with others on a personal level, ... and all of this in a voice not heard since the Schoolhouse Rock series. Those writers, as well as Doug, have the innate ability to speak the thoughts of children in a child's own articulate voice, free-flowing and imaginative, full of wonder and with an eye for detail, details that are especially meaningful to children.

So, try to find a better pop song than "Bicycle", c'mon, I dare you; then discover the consequences of washing a cookie in the sink in "Mr. Cookie". Dig the instrumental bridge near the end of the title tune and try not to dance with glee; then groove to the Tuff Gong vibe of "Lake Rules", and relive the unabashed joy of a day on the water (with a wink at The Bee Gees).

Oh, the lyrical and musical brilliance of "I'm Not Ugly (You're Not Either)", a tune that verbally wraps around itself, and is most like a Schoolhouse Rock song than any other on the album. And I can totally see a crowd of Second-Graders going absolutely apeshit when they hear "Race Cars Go" rev up! The partying continues with "Three is a Magic Number" and its eyeball-blistering guitar solo.

The last four songs on the CD will soothe your little one into blissful slumber, including the impossibly beautiful "Captain Sleep", and the achingly sweet album-closer "My Blanket", whose lyrics include the lines: "Stellar bits and particles that make up you and me / We could float around and settle down inside a symphony / Some day, and that's where we would stay / You'll be E and I'll be A". Yes.

The Jellydots are actually the project of Doug Snyder, a musician and songwriter based in Austin, Texas, an appropriately creative home for a group like this. "Hey You Kids!" is more or less a compilation of Snyder's best tracks from the past few years, stemming from guitar instruction classes he conducts with children. And since the basic tracks (drums, bass, rhythm guitar) were recorded together, all the songs keep their "right there in the same room" feel (the drums are especially tasty). The three new tunes on "Hey You Kids!" - "Bicycle", "Captain Sleep" and a cover of the classic "Three is a Magic Number" - are beyond wonderful, and if that's the new stuff, who knows what this guy's capable of?!?

If you're anywhere near Texas, check out the Jellydots, it may be the last chance you have to see them play live before they become megapopular. They could equally rock the crowd at both the SXSW Music Festival and the World Cafe Kids' Stage. Explore the Jellydots MySpace site and check out their television performance, featuring David the Dancing Donkey. And while you're at it, buy five copies of "Hey You Kids!", give one to your local library, give three to your closest friends, and keep one for yourself and/or your little ones and play repeatedly. It'll make the world a more beautiful place.


jules said...

I haven't said yet: Thank you thank you thank you thank you for existing. I linked to your blog from Fuse #8's, and I now can't live without it. I ordered Elizabeth Mitchell's newest for my wee ones, thanks to your review (had already heard her do one ditty before, but, god, this new CD of hers is great), and now I totally want The Jellydots. Your blog is bad for my checking account balance, but I love it. Thanks.

Miss Syl said...

I also want to thank you for putting together such a wonderful site (and resource). It's so difficult to find good music for kids that doesn't condescend and that also won't also make hipster parents want to rip out their hair. As your blog shows, such music IS out there, but sadly, most music sites don't pay much attention to family/kids' music--so you're really providing a great service to all of us here.

I've loved every selection you've chosen so far--and the Jellydots and Harry and the Potters ROCK the house. Thanks so much for the cool recommendations. Looking forward to seeing more.

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