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

Caspar Babypants – “Sing Along!” Kid’s Music CD Review


Babies play an integral role in the majority of Chris Ballew’s Caspar Babypants songs – both in his hand picked covers as well as his snappy originals.  Having more baby references per square inch than any other kindie artist (undocumented statistic) certainly is no accident; Ballew is making his Babypants music for, well, babies.  And the songs that don’t mention adorable floor dwellers directly are at least, lyrically, about the curious world as experienced through their wondering eyes.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the nursery, non-babies have fallen in love with his humorous tunes too.  I have it on good authority that 7-year old Bears and 4-year old Mice are helpless to the crisp arrangements, stark instrumentation and infectious vocals.  It’s also being reported that 35-year old papas have been heard singing “Are you a bad blue jay? / yes sir / Will you ever ever change? / yes sir / What will it take? / birthday cake / Will you save me a slice? / no no no” with the windows rolled down and the backseat empty.   It’s impossible not to sing along whether you’re a baby who can’t exactly sing or an adult who can’t exactly stop.

Ballew’s formula – minimal (only necessary) sounds often from a single instrument, strong vocals up front in the mix, smartly tweaked lyrics – makes even the most played-out kiddie standards like “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Ring Around the Rosie” sound playful again.  This is no small feat!

Last year’s gem of an album “This is Fun!” featured quite a bit of hilarious storytelling interspersed with the singing.  “Sing Along!” is devoid of that narrative element, instead the disc is packed to the brim with 20 damn-near-perfect songs for crawlers, climbers and drivers.

Best Moments: “Bad Blue Jay”, the lead track and the one I quote above, is a superb call and response number relying on just a pair of instruments (acoustic guitar, shaker) and an overdubbed vocal.  “I Wanna Be A Snowman” sits atop a funky, bongo-driven groove and stands alongside Billy Kelly’s “S-N-O-W-M-A-N” as my favorite becoming-a-snowman themed kindie songs.  “Me and My Echo”, another call and response ditty, wonders where an echo lives and if it has an echo of it’s own (valid questions, me thinks), and features a crowd of Pacific NW voices including the boys from Recess Monkey and Johnny Bregar.  There are no Nirvana players on this new album, but “Crawl” sounds as if it could’ve been a long lost kid’s song from the legendary band’s MTV Unplugged session with The Meat Puppets. Listen to this tale of longing for mobility and tell me you couldn’t imagine Kurt Cobain’s strained voice taking a verse.

Each of the preceding 19 are wonderful, no doubt, but it’s #20 that might just steal the “Sing Along!” show; the Rachel Loshak sung “Baby Cloud”.  She’s the wife of Morgan Taylor (Gustafer Yellowgold) and C.O.O. of Keeping it Yellow now but enjoyed a pre-kindie career of her own. Loshak makes a brilliant return to the world of recorded music on this enchanting and intoxicating lullaby to close out the best Caspar Babypants album yet.

*OWTK received a copy of “Sing Along!” for review considerations.  The opinions expressed above and honest and unbiased.

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