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Cover to “Halo-Halo” single by Mista Cookie Jar and Little Miss Ann

I am new to the world of Filipino ice cream, but I had some Magnolia guava ice cream a few months back and was so wowed that I threw in a gratuitous reference to halo-halo, a Filipino ice cream treat that’s like an ice cream sundae with ALL the toppings, into a post featuring a song by Mista Cookie Jar and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo.

Fast forward 6 months, Trader Joe’s briefly had some awesome ube ice cream in their stores, and so it feels appropriate that Mista Cookie Jar is back, teaming up with Little Miss Ann to give the world an entire song about halo-halo, the dessert treat commonly served with a scoop of ube ice cream on top.

A serving of halo-halo

Both artists have Filipino ancestry, and in talking about the song, they both mentioned excitement about being able to share the treat with their families as restaurants like Jollibee and more locally-based places make inroads into America.

Most tracks featuring Mista Cookie Jar don’t bother limiting themselves with one genre, and this track, written by both artists, has a gentle folk vibe with some hip-hop swirled into the mix. In its mellow, mixed-up way, it’s a little scoop of halo-halo for the ears. I’m super glad to be world-premiering the track here today. It’s available in all the places you get your digital music, including via the link below.

Little Miss Ann and Mista Cookie Jar - “Halo-Halo” [Bandcamp]

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Brady Rymer - Under the Big Umbrella cover art

We are in the midst of spring (or, if you’re in the desert Southwest, rapidly approaching summer), which means that it’s time for a sunnier attitude.

And as I think about kids’ musicians, Brady Rymer is right near the top of the list of those with sunnier attitudes. On May 17th, Rymer and his Little Band That Could release his tenth (!) studio album, Under the Big Umbrella.

Now, you might be thinking that I’ve failed in my narrative approach — “sunny” and “umbrella” being a more unusual pairing of words — but the album title track definitely takes more of a metaphorical than a meteorological view of the phrase. (If there were a camping-themed song here, it’d be titled “Big Tent" to be sure.) The whole album’s musical and lyrical approach will sound familiar to Rymer’s fans — roots-pop originals with an expansive sound and lyrics that welcome all. (These songs in particular were inspired by Rymer’s request for kids at a New Jersey elementary school for what was meaningful to them.) It’s a sunny set of tracks, hopeful in many ways.

We’re happy to be premiering the brand new video for “Under the Big Umbrella.” It’s a simple lyric video, but since it features the charming illustrations and hand-letterings of illustrator Emily Balsley, who did that cover art up there, that’s A-OK by me. (Go here for links to your favorite non-video way to listen to the track.)

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - “Under the Big Umbrella” [YouTube]

Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could - photo by Jayme Thornton

Photo credit: Jayme Thornton

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“Le Grand K” single cover

Who’s in the mood for a jaunty song about the weight loss of a tiny Parisian cylinder made of platinum and iridium!?!?!

Believe it or not, YOU are.

That’s right, Dan Elliott and his allusion-dense chamber-pop-for-kids music of Pointed Man Band have a song for you based on this very topic. It is ten tons of fun, or, er, one kilogram of fun, or, er, ever so slightly less than one kilogram of fun.

Elliott wrote the song a number of years ago, around the time of Flight of the Blue Whale, but never recorded it. Now as he went into the studio to record new music earlier this year, he dug the song out and the result is the track “Le Grand K” below, a world premiere for you!

And, yes, there’s more new music from the Portland band on its way — Amongst the Tall Trees will get a release later this year, tentatively set for late spring. Until then, consider “Le Grand K” a bonus track for your edification and enjoyment.

Pointed Man Band - “Le Grand K” [Soundcloud]

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Renee Stahl in straw hat. Photo by Paul Dektor

Cover art for Renee & Friends album “Kindred”

A Renee & Friends release is cause for celebrating, or perhaps, more appropriately, settling into a comfy chair after running around all day.

So you can circle one month from today — April 12 — on your calendar, because that’s when Renee Stahl and cast of friends are releasing the next R&F album Kindred.

Like its predecessor Simpatico, Kindred features some of Stahl’s favorite artists in the kids music scene, including Elizabeth Mitchell, Lisa Loeb, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Jennifer Paskow, and Ziggy Marley. (More from him below.) Stahl says the theme of this new album is “empowerment, community and compassion.” Fans of Simpatico will certainly warm to the new tracks as well, and those fans seeking a little more Renee & Jeremy music will also be pleased to hear Jeremy Toback joining Stahl on the album’s leadoff track “Kindness.”

While there are a lot of well-known names lending their voices, there are some some voices much closer to home, including Stahl’s two daughters. She cites producer Tom Rossi as being “wonderful in providing for an easygoing, fun vibe for them to shine with their sweet voices.” As for what it’s like to have your kids on your own album, she admits, “I do have to say it was a little easier when I wasn’t in the room.“

I get the lucky task today of premiering one of Kindred’s tracks, a duet between Stahl and Ziggy Marley on the Cat Stevens track “Where Do the Children Play?” It’s from Stevens’ classic album Tea for the Tillerman, an album which Rossi says he must have listened to “every day in high school.” The comparatively simple arrangement lets the voices take center stage, an immensely warm and pleasing sound the result. Perfect for timeouts, in a comfy chair or wherever.

Renee & Friends - “Where Do The Children Play? (featuring Ziggy Marley)” [Soundcloud]

Where Do The Children Play? feat. Ziggy Marley - SoundCloud
(162 secs long, 28 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Photo credit: Paul Dektor

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Screenshot of Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis from “Pan Dulce” video

When I talked about The Lucky Band’s brand new name and forthcoming album Buenos Diaz last week, I noted that “if [the song] ‘Pan Dulce’ doesn’t cause you to dance enough to burn off the calories gained by eating one of the Mexican pastries the song celebrates, I’ll be very surprised.”

Evidently I wasn’t the only one who could identify a breakout pop hit a mile away, because NPR’s Alt Latino also plucked out the track for inclusion on its latest Spotify playlist. (You can listen to the song directly here.)

But me? I’ve got the world premiere video for the song. A lyric video that features The Lucky Band’s Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis playing a slick guitar and hamming it up while wearing the most silver-y of outfits. Guaranteed to bring you joy, I’m sure of it.

The Lucky Band - “Pan Dulce” [YouTube]

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The Lucky Band - Buenos Diaz album cover

We are not alone in being big fans of Lucky Diaz, who, along with his wife Alisha Gaddis and others have been turning out earworm after earworm of kid-friendly music for a decade. We’ve known them as Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, but now, it’s time for The Lucky Band.

On April 5, the Lucky Band releases their latest album, Buenos Diaz, and while the name is new, the irresistible urge dance remains the same. Eleven tracks of bilingual pop joy — if “Pan Dulce” doesn’t cause you to dance enough to burn off the calories gained by eating one of the Mexican pastries the song celebrates, I’ll be very surprised.

As for the refresh, Diaz says that after 10 years making music for kids, “it was time to make some change… All of the artists we admire — both musical and visual — change up their work from time to time. If we don’t change, then we might as well be bank tellers.”

Diaz cites his and Gaddis’ 3-year daughter Indiana Maven as an album inspiration. He says his now-15-year-old daughter Ella helped inspire the first albums, and now he’s again “inspired every day.” “We know [a song] works if she likes it.” And clearly life with a couple of natural performers has rubbed off on her — “We are raising a vaudevillian,” he says. “She has a massive bag of costumes, with many red dresses and now new shimmery silver clothes to go with our new look.”

Diaz also mentioned raising Indy (his daughter) bilingually, “constantly mixing [up] languages and code-switching.” Diaz also wrote some of the songs together with his mom — they, to, “switch back and forth from English to Spanish all the time.”

Finally, that cover — a world-premiere right here! — is courtesy of longtime Diaz collaborator Micah Player. Inspiration ideas include “outer space, with rocket ships, and The B-52 always.” Diaz goes to say, “I can’t even imagine creating an album without his involvement.” I think Lucky Diaz listeners will recognize their aesthetic immediately.

As for the photo below from Jeff Newton, Diaz says simply, “We were going for 'Jetsons meets Daft Punk,’ and I think we got there.”

I agree.

The Lucky Band. Photo by Jeff Newton

Photo by Jeff Newton.

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The Not-Its! perform at Symphony Space.

I am definitely all in favor of rave-ups from Seattle kid pop-punk masters The Not-Its!, but just like you sometimes want an apple instead of ice cream (or vice versa), the more tender songs on Not-Its albums are pleasant changes of pace. (Or tempo, sometimes.)

Album cover - Ready or Not!

That’s the case with this track, “Heading Home.” It’s off their latest album Ready or Not!, and it’s a tender, mostly acoustic, exploration of a kid’s experience flying in a plane without their adults around. It’s inspired by the experiences of the band members’ kids, and the wide-eyed innocence of the song’s narrator is matched by the openness of the animations from animators Chris Looney, Clyde Petersen and Rhys O'Brien. You might even feel a touch of recognition thinking about your own solo travels, though it’s been some time since I’ve received a plastic set of airplane wings…

Anyway, I’m pleased as punch to present the world premiere of this video.

The Not-Its! - “Heading Home” [YouTube]

Photo credit: Symphony Space

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“Rock This World” cover

Wednesday is always a good day for new music, especially from Mista Cookie Jar. MCJ’s music blends all sorts of genres together and his first 2019 release shows that he’s not changing that approach now. “Rock This World” mixes some EDM, some trap (without the darker undertones), and Mista Cookie Jar’s characteristically revved-up optimism into a song perfect for celebrating anyone who needs a little celebrating. And if that’s not enough, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo throws in a verse, the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae (or the scoop of ube ice cream on top of the halo halo).

I’m happy to be world-premiering this track. Listen below or wherever you and your family jam to digital music.

Mista Cookie Jar (feat. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo) - “Rock This World” [Bandcamp]

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The twelfth day of Christmas, known as Epiphany, is the kickoff to a whole season of “King Cake” baking in New Orleans. During Carnival season, folks bake this ring-shaped pastry with brioche dough, with a plastic baby hidden inside. The lucky person who finds the baby is “king” for a day… and, in some traditions, is obligated to host the next party. It’s a virtuous, party-giving circle, all the way through Mardi Gras.

Johnette Downing has recorded many albums featuring the music and traditions of the New Orleans area she calls home, not to mention having written and illustrated a number of books as well. Her latest book, Who Got the Baby in the King Cake?, recounts the tradition.

To go along with the book, Downing and her husband Scott Billington recruited a trio of Crescent City heavy hitters for a horn front line (trumpeter Kevin Clark, trombonist Craig Klein, and clarinetist Tim Laughlin) to record the book’s accompanying musical track. It grooves and struts sounds classically New Orleans. (The track is from Downing and Billington’s forthcoming album Swamp Romp.)

Anyway, there’s a video to go along with it, which also features Downing’s vibrant illustrations. It’s a bunch of fun. Here’s hoping you find the baby in at least king cake this season.

Johnette Downing - “Who Got the Baby in the King Cake” [YouTube]

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It was time for the Okee Dokee Brothers to try something new. After a trio of Grammy-nominated albums the band dubbed their “Adventure Album Series,” including the Grammy-winning (and all-everything-winning) Can You Canoe?, what could they do as a follow-up?

Turns out, Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, childhood friends from Colorado, now headquartered in Minnesota, know a little bit about winter. And so on their forthcoming album Winterland, the band sings songs about the season. Lest you think this is their “holiday” album, however, you won’t hear a bunch of songs featuring a jolly fat man in a red suit. Instead, the songs celebrate snow, family, and the passing of time. It’s fun, to be sure, but this album is slightly closer in tone to, say, George Winston’s December than Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

When I asked Mailander and Lansing what inspired them to take winter as the subject of their next album after the Adventure Album series, they said:

Our other albums have all been set in warm weather seasons and settings - canoeing, hiking, and horse-packing. As proud Minnesotans, we felt like we could no longer ignore the beauty and inspiration found in winter. We also knew that many people only associate winter music with the holiday season, and we wanted to the challenge that. We wanted to provide a soundtrack for the season that focused on subjects beyond the standard holiday themes. That challenge and the beauty of winter, made this album a natural next step for us. 

It’s not often that I can say this phrase and literally mean it, but it’s true — with “Slumberjack,” one of the songs on the new album, you can hear the Okee Dokee Brothers as you’ve never heard them before: a capella! Talking about the song, the band says, they drew inspiration from the songs and shanties of Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

“We had never recorded an acapella song and wanted to show kids that you don’t need instruments to have a good sing out. All you need is some stomping, a strong chorus, and a good story. The story came from bedtime legends like ‘The Sandman’ but we gave it some North Woods flair.”

It’s about as celebratory a lullaby as you’ll ever hear. Lots of fun, and I’m pleased as punch to give the track its world premiere.

Winterland is out October 19th.

AND! Don’t miss the band’s list of favorite — and least favorite — things about winter after the track below.

What is your favorite (and least favorite) aspect of winter?

Favorite: Playing in snow

Least favorite: Driving in snow

Favorite: Cozying up by the fire

Least Favorite: Cabin Fever


Favorite: First Snow 

Least Favorite: Last Snow 


Favorite: New Snow

Least Favorite: Old Snow


Favorite: Sledding

Least Favorite: Broken tailbone


Favorite: Warm boots

Least Favorite: Wet boots


Favorite: Sliding on ice on purpose

Least Favorite: Sliding on ice accidentally


Photo credit: Alex Johnson of Alex Johnson Photography

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