Best New Children's Music 2012 / OWTK Kindie Album Reviews

Lunch Money – Original Friend CD Review

“Your ideal / your image / your definition of a friend” – The Afghan Whigs “What Jail Is Like”

That lyric first rattled around inside these ears some 17 years ago.  It prompted me to examine who I considered a friend and what, exactly, the idea of a friendship meant to me.  The result was and remains a hyper-strict interpretation of the word that induces more than a wince at the casual use of ‘friend’ today.  It also leaves me, save for my loving bride, utterly friendless (Facebook excluded, of course).

The Afghan Whigs were treading in adult friendship waters; dark & murky. Lunch Money’s “Original Friend”, the South Carolina trio’s 3rd kindie album, examines Friendship v1.0 – the childhood variety.  But, before we dismiss the earliest form of friend-making as frivolous and unsustainable consider, as Lunch Money vocalist Molly Ledford does over the course of these 12 new songs, the simple joy in blowing bubbles, trading action figures, sharing a doughnut, and assuming the mannerisms and speech patterns of your favorite buddy as the wide-eyed 7-year-old you.  Pleasant memories, I reckon.

“Original Friend” is a brilliant work of nostalgia that captures, musically, the ear-to-ear smiles most common in those most capable of producing them: children.

The Sound: Happiness, or more specifically, what a smile sounds like.

In the Cafeteria, They Sit With: Frances England, The Jellydots

Best Moments: The waltz “Getaway Car” is a triumph of imagination, horns and those filthy grocery store shopping cart cars.  It’s the Bear’s favorite new Lunch Money track.  Kid-Hop star Secret Agent 23 Skidoo plays action figures with the band on “Come Over to My Dollhouse”, a song rich with pop culture proper nouns such as “Skeletor’s working the grill / Rainbow Brite’s been up all night just talking ’bout the Bat Cave / and we wanna go there too”.  For parents ages 32-40, it’s impossible to listen to the potpourri of 80’s toy references without reminiscing about your own stash buried in a parent’s basement or, like too many of us, lost forever.  [a moment of silence please for Castle Grayskull and the rest of my dearly departed He-Man collection]

23 Skidoo isn’t the only guest on “Original Friend.  Two of the sweetest voices in kindie rock collaborate on “You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles” as Frances England joins Lunch Money’s Molly Ledford on the sparse charmer.  And like that plaintive tune, “Snow Globe” is also tender and aching.   The song’s momentum hinges upon Ledford’s voice that at times sounds as if it’s resting on your shoulder, singing just for you with a softness that’s as charming as it is intoxicating.

So much of Lunch Money’s allure is tied to Ledford’s delivery.  She’s not a Celine Dion-figure commanding attention or even a perky Laurie Berkner type that will instantly have toddlers smiling.  Her way is a tad more mischievous, and she’d likely deflect any spotlight to her rhythm section (bassist J.P Stephens and drummer Jay Barry).  Molly Ledford wins with a subtle, dry wit and by sounding like the kind of friend who’ll eagerly hop out of your booth at the diner to open a door for a stranger before returning to share her last bite of Boston Creme with you.  In short, Lunch Money goes as Ledford goes, sweetly and lovingly into our hearts and heads.

Bonus Thought: Download the title track for free, here.

Bonus Bonus Thought: The packaging for “Original Friend” is the reason digital music must never claim complete victory.  Designed by Brandon Reese (Zooglobble logo, Lunch Money’s “Dizzy” artwork), the packaging is about as clever and charming as the 12 songs it encases.  Buy the physical album and reveal in it’s glory.

Okay, Time to Wrap it all up with A Nice Bow: Lunch Money, always an adorable band, once again trade in the currency of cuteness here on “Original Friend”.  Expect to get a bit weak-kneed thanks to Molly Ledford’s confidently quivering voice, the band’s orchestral pop, and Tor Hyams plush, teddy bear production.

To put it in doughnut terms: If “Dizzy” was a vanilla-glazed, “Original Friend”, an album 25% longer and unquestionably grander than it’s tasty predecessor, is an over-sized, glorious, powdered, cream-filled doughnut perfect for sharing with all of your bestest friends.

*A copy of “Original Friend” was provided to OWTK for review. The opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased. No arm-twisting took place in the review process.

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