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 »

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