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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Kids & Family

Hip music for kids, part one


Even though it sounds strange at first, kids' music is becoming increasingly less centered on kids. Instead, musicians are making "all-ages" or "family" music that anyone can appreciate. Turns out kids are interested in music that doesn't have to do with tiny spiders or swooshing bus wipers -- who knew?

Noggin continues to introduce some of these savvy, whimsical music makers like Dan Zanes and Laurie Berkner, and there are plenty more performers cropping up in this exploding genre that your little rockers will groove on. And some of these artists are still singing about typical "kid stuff," but in a style that's as thoughtful and smart as songs made for grown ups.

We know you want to have the hippest kid in the sandbox, so OMC compiled a list of alternative music for your cool kittens. We know there's more great stuff out there, so use the talkback feature to share what's been going round-and-round your CD player lately.

A few music suggestions:

Anything by Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner or Ralph's World.

Let's introduce the major players first by saying these pioneers in the smart kids' music scene know how to entertain the whole family, and any of their records will leave Raffi in a cloud of baby powder.

The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs For Bumpy Wagon Rides (Various artists)

Bloodshot Records is the flagship label for the insurgent country music movement that spawned Kelly Hogan, Robbie Fulks, Waco Brothers and Devil in a Woodpile. These artists, among others, gathered to record an alt-country children's music compilation cleverly titled "The Bottle Let Me Down." Standards such as "It's Not Easy Being Green" -- performed by Rex Hobart & The Misery Boys -- and "Rubber Duckie" by Hogan will introduce your baby to the bizarro world.

The Hipwaders

This pod of power poppers started playing kids' parties in San Francisco and ended up winning the coveted Parent's Choice Award a couple of years ago for their self-titled debut album. It's smart, catchy and fun, with lyrical content ranging from volcanoes to messy rooms.

The Innocence Mission

Husband-and-wife team Don and Karen Peris made adult music for more than 15 years before creating a beautiful, dreamy collection of lullabies called, "Now The Day Is Over." Inspired by Astrud Gilberto and Vince Guaraldi, this one's a keeper. (Note: Parents who experienced infertility will appreciate Innocent Mission's melancholy-but-hopeful, "Birds of My Neighborhood.")

Justin Roberts

You really can't go wrong with any of his discs. Roberts latest, "Meltdown," is as witty and warm as ever, but we still like "Great Big Sun" the best, with songs so captivating that our kids learned early how to repeatedly hit the back arrow on their disc player.

Milkshake

Lisa Mathews and Mikel Gehl (alums of the pop/rock act Love Riot) mixed talents and concocted Milkshake, a poppy, heartfelt band that's joined the ranks of hip kid rockers thanks to their videos on Noggin. Their CD "Bottle of Sunshine" is a blast, with Mathews sounding more than ever like Margo Timmons from the Cowboy Junkies.

Putumayo Kids: Sing along with Putamayo (Various)

A fantastic roundup for anyone who failed to get on board the family music bandwagon when it first rolled into homes five years ago. Some of the coolest players in the crop contribute: Dan Zanes and Friends' "Bushel and a Peck," Rosie Flores' spirits-to-the-sky "Red Red Robin," and Taj Mahal's gruff "Don't You Push Me Down." This is a great place to start if you're trying to build a hipper collection of music for your kid.

They Might Be Giants

After making quirky music for adults for two decades, They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh and John Linnell) made the smooth-as-butta transition into kids' music. This record is educational and clever, including our personal favorite "LMNO" that talks about how even though kids often think this is one letter ("el-em-eno"), it's not.

Trout Fishing In America

This wacky folk/rock group appeals to both parents and kids with tunes like "My Hair Had a Party Last Night" and "What I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee." Can we get a "hell yeah" on that last song, please?

Talkbacks

OMCreader | June 7, 2006 at 4:18 p.m. (report)

Phil Brody said: I have some suggestions I think work even better... The Clash, Bowie, Sufjan Stevens, New Pornographers, etc. Why not let your child listen to good music? Litmus test -- If you don't like it, don't make them listen to it. Don't make exceptions just because something is palpable -- no good, no play. Period.

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