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

Brothers From Another Mother: A Pair of New Kindie CD Reviews


Dog on Fleas is the quintessential American, 21st century all-ages kid’s band. They are hilarious — goofy but not cartoonish.  They are raucous — musically punchy but always endearing, and oft genuinely tender.  They incorporate a cornucopia of tasteful instrumentation, including a subtle electronic undercurrent, and big, bright, bold & beautiful horns.  Oh those Dean Jones tooted horns, how I adore thee.

Like that scruffy teddy bear from your own childhood, you know, the one your clutching in every single faded, decades-old photograph — a bit ragged, stitching loose, but forever filled with heart.  So much heart.  This is, pretty much, Dog on Fleas.  They’re not shiny and all clean-clean, and will never be considered the hot new thing.  Dog on Fleas won’t find themselves on a Grammy ballot, and don’t expect the trio to ever appear on an early morning kiddie TV program (both of which require a certain high level of want-to).  But you will never hear and see a more authentically boisterous children’s band.  Think Yo Gabba Gabba without the forced retro kitsch, and thrift store earth tones in place of toy aisle primary colors.  Oh, and no oversized space creature puppets.

There’s isn’t a need for gimmicks when you write truly hip, killer songs about a good luck mouse (“Fortunate Mistake”), the all mighty thumb (“Just Another Finger”), a charming friend (“Charm Them Birdies”), and floating down a river in a “Peapod” (a song featuring a kindie chorus of Recess Monkey, Lunch Money, Gustafer Yellowgold, and The Deedle Deedle Dees).  All four of these blissful gems appear on the Fleas latest and greatest CD.

I know that I’m only dedicating several inches of internet space to this disc (and to the next one below) but believe you me, you’ll be hard pressed to find five albums better for your family in 2012 than Dog on Fleas’ Invisible Friends.


Photo credit: Posy Quarterman


Hailing from the U.S. hipster capital du jour — Portland, OR — this quirky kindie troubadour is the left coast version of Dog on Fleas; sharing in that grounded yet goofball aesthetic and the decidedly left-of-center songwriting track of his Hudson Valley, NY brethren.  With songs featuring a mullet wig wearing dragon (“Suction Cup”), and several boys with princess aspirations cavorting with hurricane girls not long for tutus and tiaras (“Twirlin'” & “The Princess & The Cowboy”) it won’t take long for you to realize Phillips’ brand of children’s music isn’t exactly, well, normal.  This despite his mostly straightforward pop-rock musical setup of guitar/bass/drums.

While Monster Suit isn’t exactly all over the place, it is the kind of album that keeps you guessing from song to song, and is also the type of CD that will deliver surprises on the 3rd listen and still more nuggets of pop bliss to uncover on the 30th. And THAT is a special attribute for any collection of songs — it makes Mo Phillips’ Monster Suit one of our favorite discs of the year, one that refuses to stay out of the CD player for very long.

Are you listening to the OWTK Kid’s Music Monthly Podcast?  If so, you’ve already heard new tracks from both of these fine records.  If not, well let’s get you set up right now to download the free podcast every month.

*OWTK received copies of Invisible Friends & Monster Suit for review consideration. The opinions above and honest and unbiased, as always.

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