Kids Music: Spare the Rock’s Best Picks for 2008!

Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child

The Best of 2008!

For the third straight year, I’ve worked with Stefan from and Amy from to put together a consensus poll of DJs, reviewers, bloggers, and other people who pay a lot of attention to music for kids. The poll is called the Fids & Kamily Awards, and you can see the results at, along with reviews by a bunch of different writers.

Below is our ballot for the best family CDs of 2008:

1. Here Come the 123s – They Might Be Giants ( On their third CD for kids, TMBG continued what made their first two essential listening: a combination of hook-filled music with lyrics that will get parents and kids cracking up. Here Come the 123s is not really intended as an educational CD, and that’s good – instead, it’s pure entertainment.

2. Family Tree – Frances England ( This indie folk release was second place by the closest of margins for me; it might as well have been first. It rocks a bit more than her debut Fascinating Creatures, without giving up the immediacy and playfulness that made that release my favorite of 2006.

3 (tie). Pop Fly – Justin Roberts ( Pop Fly was the overall winner in the Fids & Kamily poll this year, and Justin’s Meltdown came in first two years ago; clearly, he’s doing something that connects with listeners: note-perfect poppy alt-rock for kids, with humor that reaches both kids and their grownups.

3 (tie). Rock All Day, Rock All Night – The Nields ( The sisters Nields win the prize for the cleverest two-disc set idea of late: the first CD (“Rock All Day”) is the higher-energy dance-in-the-living room set of songs, and the second (“Rock All Night”) is for rocking to sleep – lullabies. Both discs are terrific, showcasing the gorgeous interplay of their voices. In a just world, “Who Are You Not To Shine?” would be a massive hit outside the kids’ music arena.

5. Songs With No Character – ScribbleMonster ( ScribbleMonster has released three excellent rocking kids’ records, all featuring character voices and proudly wearing the influence of The Replacements and various Chicago rock brethren. Here, the band drops the voices and delivers a terrific record that really flows. From the Blur-esque “All Ready to Go” to the sweet “The Song of LIFE” to the just plain funny “No Good Can Ever Come Of A Sleepover,” the release pulls off its ambition to be not just tolerable to parents, but actually for them as well as the kids.

6 (tie). Here Comes Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could – Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could ( Brady this year put together his best-yet record of friendly and loose, but never sloppy, kid roots rock. Featuring a number of performers from Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions along with Rymer’s long-standing band, it’s the perfect weekend soundtrack.

6 (tie). Easy – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo ( Easy is the first genuinely great hip hop record for kids, mixing, as the press materials suggest, old school hip hop with elementary school themes. Put together by hip hop veteran Cactus (of Granola Funk Express), SA23 throws hip hop, bluegrass, funk, rock, and more into the pot, and produces a terrific way to introduce your kids to hip hop with a positive message.

6 (tie). Tabby Road – Recess Monkey ( Barely a half-year after the terrific and ambitious Wonderstuff, the prolific Recess Monkey released Tabby Road. This record is their most consistent, with a steady stream of perfect pop melodies over sweet poppy rock.

9 (tie). Snacktime – Barenaked Ladies ( It might come as a surprise that BNL haven’t previously come out with a record for the kids. Happily, they haven’t dumbed down their often-overlooked songwriting skills for their jump into the kids’ music pool. Instead, they’ve retained the infectious poppy tunes, clever lyrics, and occasionally surprising insights. Snacktime is exactly what you’d want a BNL kids’ CD to be like.

9 (tie). Sunny Side Up – Egg ( Like the band Cake? Like your kids? Want to combine those two likes? Egg’s for you. Not that they’re a Cake knock-off; that’s just the easiest reference to make (and one the band makes themselves). There is zero condescension here; it’s just great alt-rock that happens to be for kids.  Read the rest of this entry »

2008 Fids & Kamily Awards

Top Tunes for 2008
by Sienna Wildfield, Hilltown Family Variety Show

Top Ranked Winner of the Fids & Kamily Awards

Justin Roberts: Pop Fly - Top Ranked Winner of the Fids & Kamily Awards

For the second year in a row I was honored to be asked to be a judge of the Fids and Kamily Music Poll (read about last years winners) … and I have to tell you, with all the great kids & family music that came out this year, it was no easy task!

What is the Fids and Kamily Music Poll?

The Fids and Kamily Poll is the first compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. The poll was launched in 2006 and was inspired by the Village Voice’s long-running “Pazz and Jop” music poll.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

In the third year of the Fids and Kamily Music Poll, Justin Roberts’ Pop Fly was voted the best kids and family album of the year. Pop Fly topped a list of outstanding releases in a year that included kids and family albums from mainstream/adult artists such as They Might Be Giants and Barenaked Ladies, as well as albums from new and upcoming kids and family artists such as Frances England and Recess Monkey.  Roberts’ previous album Meltdown won the inaugural poll in 2006.

The Top 10 albums of 2008 are (in order):

  1. Justin Roberts – Pop Fly (read more)
  2. Frances England – Family Tree (read more)
  3. They Might Be Giants – Here Come the 123s (read more)
  4. Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – Easy (check out their video)
  5. The Terrible Twos – Jerzy the Giant (read more)
  6. Barenaked Ladies – Snacktime (read more)
  7. Recess Monkey – Tabby Road (remember when)
  8. Medeski, Martin & Wood – Let’s Go Everywhere (read more)
  9. ScribbleMonster – Songs With No Character (our number one pick!)
  10. Danielle Sansone – Two Flowers

Honorable Mentions (unranked next ten):

  • Laurie Berkner – Rocketship Run
  • Bill Harley – Yes To Running! (read more)
  • Randy Kaplan – Loquat Rooftop (read more)
  • Lisa Loeb – Camp Lisa
  • Gunnar Madsen – I’m Growing
  • Okee Dokee Brothers – Kids With Beards
  • Ellis Paul – The Dragonfly Races (read our interview)
  • Ralph’s World – The Rhyming Circus
  • Brady Rymer – Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could (read more)
  • Dan Zanes – Nueva York

A Few More

And if you’re looking for a list of the top 30 family albums released over the past year, consider these (unranked) wonderful releases too (we did!).

  • Rebecca Frezza & Big Truck – Special Kind of Day (read more)
  • Suzi Shelton – No Ordinary Day (read more)
  • The Nields – Rock All Day: Rock All Night (read more)
  • Mr. Saxaphone – Songs From the Treehouse (read more)
  • Hot Peas ‘n Butter – The Pod Squad
  • The Jellydots –  Changing Skies (read more)
  • Various Artists – Blue Moo
  • Harmonica Pocket – Ladybug One (read more)
  • The BummKinn Band – Rockin’ the YeeHaw (read more)
  • The Hollow Trees – Welcome to Nelsonville (read more)

Plus one more:

  • Imagination Movers – Juice Box Heroes

The full results of the poll, including essays on the top 10 albums and a listing of other nominated albums, are available at the Fids and Kamily website (

The list of judges for this years poll was great.  Check out all the great folks and visit their sites to learn more about what they’re up to:  Read the rest of this entry »

Kids Music: Spare the Rock’s Best Picks for 2007!

Fids & Kamily 2007 Awards … My Vote!
By Bill Childs, HF Contributing Writer

For the second straight year, I’ve worked with two great kids’ media reviewers, Stefan from and Amy from, to put together a consensus poll of DJs, reviewers, bloggers, and other people who pay a lot of attention to music for kids. The poll is called the Fids & Kamily Awards, and you can see the results at, along with reviews by a bunch of different writers.

To follow is my ballot for the best family CDs of 2007:

Deedle Deedle Dees1. Freedom in a Box – Deedle Deedle Dees ( The Brooklyn-based Deedle Deedle Dees combine a great sense of fun and whimsy with a slightly askew view of history and Americana-tinged rocking out. I still listen to this every few days, with or without my kids, and boy, do they love it. So will you.

2. Mommy Says No! -Asylum Street Spankers ( The Austin-based Spankers take their immensely varied musical styles into the world of kids’ music, and don’t follow the rules there any more than they do with their grown-up records. From touching ballads (“Sidekick”) to behind-kicking rawking out (Nirvana’s “Sliver”), the CD is another one in regular rotation in the minivan.

3. It’s a Big World – Renee & Jeremy ( As I said in my initial review, this CD is flat-out gorgeous. This duo provides the best lullabies and mellowing-out songs of the year, hands down.

4. Have You Never Been Yellow? – Gustafer Yellowgold ( Gustafer is a small yellow fellow from the sun, and this, the second CD/DVD set to follow his Earthly exploits, is sweetly hilarious and musically rich. The CD stands on its own, but the DVD “moving story book” is what makes the package very nearly perfect.

5. Educated Kid – Hipwaders ( Need some tight power guitar rock for your little ones? Who doesn’t? The Hipwaders are here for you. The CD could have only the title track and two other tracks (“Art Car” and “Speed of Love”) and it’d still be in my top ten; lucky for all of us, it’s got even more.

6. Have You Ever Seen an Owl? – Terrible Twos ( The Terrible Twos are the kids-music iteration of The New Amsterdams, and their music for families is similar: hook-filled country-tinged rock that you’ll be humming even after the kids are in bed.

7. Alphabet Songs Vol. III – Steve Weeks ( With this, Weeks finished up a trilogy of records with each song themed to a letter of the alphabet, a gimmick that largely serves to showcase his quick wit and songwriting skills. The music is straightforward (but not dull) folk rock along the lines of Barenaked Ladies, remarkably all performed by Weeks himself.

8. Calling All Kids – CandyBand ( To put it in SAT test terms: CandyBand: kids’ music :: The Clash: grownup music. These four moms from Detroit rock, and your neck will be sore from all the headbanging.

9. Make Your Own Someday – The Jimmies ( You know how when you watch The Office, you want to be friends with Jim and Pam? (That does happen to other people, right?) After listening to the Jimmies, you and your kids will want to be friends with Ashley Albert, the lead singer and primary songwriter. She just seems so darn fun and the songs are just so clever and catchy that your whole family will want to be her BFF.

10. Play – Various Artists ( This indie-band-filled compilation avoids the trap of playing down to kids that similar compilations sometimes fall into. With Mudhoney rocking out and The Soccer Team’s handclap-filled “I’ll Never Fear Ghosts Again,” it’s a consistent crowd-pleaser.


Bill Childs & EllaBill Childs teaches law school by day in Springfield. With his kids, he produces a radio show for kids, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, on Valley Free Radio (103.3FM in Northampton) on Saturday mornings from 8am to 10am and online at He’s also a columnist for regional parenting magazines, covers music for Parenting magazine, and is a bi-monthly contributing writer to Hilltown Families. Contact him at

Fids & Kamily Awards Episode on HFVS (11/27/07)

The Hipwaders t-shirt design HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW
Fids & Kamily Awards Episode

with Sienna

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Tuesday evening @ 7pm

11/27/07 PLAYLIST

listen now | subscribe to podcast | archived shows | contests


I was honored to be asked to participate as a judge for the Fids & Kamily Awards this year. The F&K Awards are a consensus poll of judges (19 to be exact) that are either DJ’s, writers, critics or have something to do within the kids music industry. When I was elbow deep into choosing my top ten I thought to myself, “This is IMPOSSIBLE!” The selection of quality new music released this year was far from slim pickin’s. I could have easily chosen a couple dozen albums as my top favorites. I did have my focus group of one, my 5yo daughter. Without a doubt, her favorite album (for the moment) is Wonderstuff by Recess Monkey, which rivals her love of Gustafer Yellowgold and Uncle Rock. Her input weighed heavily on my final choices, and in the end our top ten selections were CD’s that she and I mutually love. The winners were announced a little over a week ago and posted at This week’s episode features the top fifteen winning bands. If you like what you hear, support these artist by giving their music for the holiday season!

In addition to the winning bands there were also five bands that received honorable mentions, and 57 bands that were nominated but didn’t make the top of the list. Two local bands, the Nields and The Pop Rockets got my vote, along with Steve Weeks & Ben Rudnick and Friends. The rest will remain a mystery.



on winning Milkshake’s CD & T-shirt from last week’s contest.


Hipwaders t-shirt designFor this week’s contest we’re offering music and the t-shirt from the Hipwaders, submitted to the HFVS T-Shirt Review.

“Guitars, guitars, guitars. Stick one on a shirt and you’ve got the kids attention. This design in particular was well received. “I like the guitar and black t-shirt a lot. Rock & roll!” remarked future concert goer Nathaniel (age 5) of Worthington, MA. And the parents gave this design a thumbs up too: “Simple and funky!” wrote Erica (mom) of Shelburne Falls, MA. “Very cool for kids and adults,” commented Kara (mom).” [HFVS T-Shirt Review]

HOW TO WIN: For your chance to win simply post us a comment below. We’ll randomly draw a winner from everyone who leaves a comment. IT’S THAT SIMPLE! Deadline is 12/04/07 @ 7pm (EST).

Read the rest of this entry »

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