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

Recess Monkey – In Tents Kid’s CD Review

Photo: Kevin Fry


Tiny moments. I want nothing more than to recognize, rejoice in, and remember forever the tiny moments; to pick them out of air before they vanish into the ether, to scoop them from the mouths of babes, and to collect them all in a burgundy velvet satchel tied to my belt.

If you are paying attention — living your life with your head up — you know of what I speak: the fleeting, seductive glance from your lover before your first night together, the way your baby’s lips learned to form their first smile, that one summer sunset and the color it splashed across your backyard. A memorable life can be defined by the grand experiences, but it’s your personal collection of perfect 5-second intervals of time that makes it worth remembering in the first place.

A well-lived life should be overflowing with swift, sweet, and subtle moments. My life as a passionate music fan is also filled with such snippets — when that drummer double times the beat in that one verse, the inflection that singer used when saying that one word. When you listen close — really close — and when music is more than background in your existence on this Earth, you pick up itty bitty sounds that send shivers up and down your spine. This isn’t just me, right?

Recess Monkey have always been a band capable of providing listeners with dozens of soundbites per album worth savoring like the last bite of decadent chocolate mousse. Enlisting the talents of Dog on Fleas’ frontman and kindie’s it producer Dean Jones (the sneaky card shark above) both in the studio and behind the soundboard adds even more savory nuggets of pop-rock bliss to spelunk for months and months on end. There’s the “I’ll eat the frosting from the middle of my cookie / justa lika you do” bit in the middle of “Twins”, and the way Drew sings “I could see” sans the hazy fuzz for the very first time and also how cool the words “high fidelity” sound coming out of his mouth on “I Could See (Magically)”, the pun of lyric “we don’t walk around / we shuffle” in “House of Cards”, and the lingering organ and rat-a-tat-tat of the band-organ-esque drum at the end of several verses in “Carousel”. Precious bits them all, stashed away to cherish even after the kids have grown.

For their 8th album, the Seattle trio once again adopt a theme that doesn’t so much define the songs as it does point their pop-rock caravan in a certain direction. Once you get about half way into In Tents you’re outside of the big top with a gaggle of kids getting fitted for eyeglasses (“I Could See (Magically)”), dealing with stage fright (“Edwina Mae”), upselling “Lemonade”, pondering your besties (“Twins”), and a kicking it with a “Dancin’ Bear”. You know, normal everyday stuff. Mostly.

Dean Jones’ dusty, ragtag production offers a touch of traveling-county-fair charm (sans the toothless carnies) to the slick, tight power pop Recess Monkey trade in. His influence is there — looseness, horns, relaxed vibe — but Jones’ doesn’t attempt to transform Drew, Jack & Daron into something they are not. There are still fast-paced zingers like “Human Cannonball”, In Tents best song for wrecking ball kids like my Mouse, whacky tributes to The Beastie Boys (video below), and a contemplative ballad to pull a tear out of sensitive adults (“Crystal Ball”.). No more John Vanderslice references, I fear. Something’s gotta give, I guess.

At this point in their evolution as a kindie band, it is becoming damn near impossible for me to evaluate Recess Monkey’s work rationally. We love these guys — hanging out with them, seeing them perform live, and listening to them on record. While some songs on previous albums stand out above any single one here, I think I’m comfortable saying that In Tents is our favorite Recess Monkey album to date — although that will surely change next summer, when album #9 wows us and supplies me with handfuls of new tiny moments of brilliance to harvest.

**Hear “Lemonade” from In Tents on the June episode of the OWTK Kid’s Music Monthly Podcast. Subscribe for free on iTunes today!**

*OWTK received a copy of In Tents for review consideration. The opinions express above are honest and unbiased, as always.

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