kid’s music. so much of it is awful jingly jangly, repetitive rubbish that gets stuck in your head and makes you feel like you’ve been lobotomized. i find it often feels as if it’s been thrown together by people who just want to make a buck, and haven’t actually thought about the lyrics, the musicality, or the artistic merit of what they’re making.
our son deserves better than that.
he listens to his fair share of ‘grown up music’ and loves rocking out to paul simon, van morrison, darren hanlon, the beatles, and our other favourites, but i think it’s nice for him to have some of his own music too. stuff that’s written for little ones, about things that they like, like dinosaurs, farts, animals, birds, and families. we’ve kept a look out for good stuff, and kept our standards high. these are some of the best we’ve come across:
our top five children’s albums:
this is a beautiful folky album. the vocals are soft and mellow without being sickly or babyish, and the musicianship is really lovely. she covers songs by woody guthrie, velvet underground, and neil young, but manages to make them new, interpreting them with subtlety and sensitivity. this is a family favourite.
this album is fantastic to dance to, and i love putting it on when we have jobs to do around the house because it keeps us happy and energetic while we get on with things. the whole album has a really positive, cheerful mood to it, and it features some great guest artists, including paul simon!
this beautiful, unique album will always hold a special place in my heart, because i listened to it almost constantly while i was pregnant. natalie merchant has a powerfully evocative voice that can be raucous, haunting, playful, mournful, enticing, and soothing by turns, so it’s perfect for a project like this. she has taken poems by writers as varied as ogden nash, mervyn peake, e. e. cummings, rober louis stevenson, and christina rossetti, and turned them into a brilliant collection of songs about childhood. if you only buy one album especially for your child, it should be this one. i can’t recommend it highly enough.
this album is exactly what you would expect to get if you asked someone as whimsical and imaginative as kimya dawson to write a bunch of songs for kids. there are songs about monsters destroying block towns, about wiggly teeth, and about having tigers in your underwear drawer. it’s fast paced, there’s loads of great percussion, and it’s full of love, honesty, and sincerity.
i was pretty surprised to learn that johnny cash had recorded a children’s album. it seemed a bit odd and incongruous to me. but it’s actually a really great little bunch of songs. it’s certainly dated now, and there are some references in some of the lyrics that are a little bit iffy by modern standards, but it’s got some classic tracks on it that are fun to sing along to in the car, and that arty really enjoys. june carter-cash makes an appearance too, and that makes me happy, because she is amazing.
i feel like i also need to give an honourable mention to ‘before sleep comes’ by luka bloom. this isn’t a children’s album per se, but it is a collection of folky lullabies that arty often listens to at nap time. the guitar playing is as accomplished as any you’ll hear, and the songs vary from traditional irish folk songs, to luka’s hymn to chamomile. i listen to this myself when i need something comforting and calming, and i think it’s the perfect bedtime album for any baby or child.
so those are our current favourites, but i’m always keen to find new tunes for us to enjoy together. what do you like to listen to with your kids?