Wednesday, January 14, 2009

***Kimya Dawson***

Considered an "Anti-folk" hero, Kimya, to me, is more a "Pro-stream-of-consciousness" performer: her songs concentrate heavily on lyrics while instrumentation is almost an afterthought. But that's a good thing, as her thinking-out-loud songs explore deeper feelings, spur of the moment thoughts, and silly ideas that other performers wouldn't bother developing into songs.

Dawson's grownup band, The Moldy Peaches, reveled in low-key, lo-fi, sometimes shambolic, but always attention-grabbing songs. She reels it in a little on Alphabutt, much the same way she did on the Juno soundtrack. The closest thing this comes to in the arena of kids' music is Woody Guthrie's 1956 classic Songs to Grow On for Mother and Child. And Dawson is pretty much singing to and for her little girl Panda on Alphabutt, the same way Guthrie's son Arlo was the main audience for Mother and Child.

Here's a one-sentence review for ya: Kimya Dawson's Alphabutt is the sound of parenting. For once, a performer records what it really sounds like when you're hanging out with your kids, unselfconsciously singing songs and having fun. These tunes aren't about anything mindblowing, no lessons are overtly or subconsciously being taught here. The songs just celebrate feelings that come with mommyhood (pre- and post-birth): love, companionship, anxiety, joy, pride.

Kimya gives you sing-alongs like "Louie," "I Like Bears," and the crazy-ass "Wiggle My Tooth;" autobiographical observations like "Smoothie" and "Happy Home (Keep On Writing);" and bizarre but funny character portraits like "Bobby-O." Dig the simple but effective chant "Pee-Pee in the Potty," the lovely and word-filled "I Love You Sweet Baby," and the noisy naptime ode "Little Monster Babies." And for a quick idea of what Alphabutt is all about, listen to the brilliant and hilarious title tune, and follow it with the sweet "Little Panda Bear."

It was very punk rock of Kimya to follow up her Juno success with an album of children's songs. She could have easily recorded a collection of more slickly-produced, soundtrack-ready tunes rather than kid-friendly songs about pee, farts, bears, aerobics instructors, and dogs. Kudos to her and others who have the guts to push the boundaries of kids' music even farther.

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