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Grown-Up Bands Craft Kid Songs

For many, the idea of music for kids conjures up memories of long road trips spent trapped in a crowded car with singalong songs that become more annoying with each subsequent listen. But in recent years, there's been an upswing in the quality of children's music, aided by the recent trend of artists with careers in other, more adult-oriented genres creating albums that appeal to kids and adults alike.

Children's-music blogger Stefan Shepherd — who writes reviews for Zooglobble — and All Things Considered host Melissa Block recently previewed a few new releases that both parents and children can enjoy.

They Might Be Giants

One of the most popular recent examples has been the whimsical alternative pop band They Might Be Giants, which put out Here Come the ABC's in 2005 and recently released a follow-up called Here Come the 123's. Shepherd says that the band's transition into writing songs specifically for kids was not that much of a stretch.

"When they first started recording music for kids," Shepherd says, "I think a lot of people thought, 'Well, duh, that made sense.' Because a lot of their songs were kid-friendly before. So a lot of the songs on this album would sound perfectly integrated into their albums they record for adults."

Like the previous album, which features songs about the letters in the alphabet, 123's is a collection of songs about numbers starting at zero and going up to infinity. Shepherd says that songs such as "Seven" are catchy but also interesting to the ear.

"I like the fact that it's a fun song," Shepherd says. "It's got this surreal aspect to it, in which the 'sevens' overrun this household and demand more cake. It's got these wonderful, deadpan kids' voices who are playing the role of 7."

The Board Of Education

Here Come the 123's isn't the only new children's album to feature numbers, or even the number 8: The Board of Education, a side project of the Seattle band Central Services, has a song about the number 8 called "8 Is a Number." Shepherd says that the band turned to kids' music because one of the songwriters was once an elementary school science teacher.

"That sort of smart indie-pop sensibility and educational bent got married into this new project," Shepherd says. "This album really is designed more for the kids who are 8 and 9 and 10 years old. They might bop along because it's got some catchy melodies, but they're not writing for your 3-year-old."

The Nields

With The Nields' double-length album release, sisters Katryna and Nerissa Nields also make the jump from folk music to kids' music. The release splits between Rock All Day, which features more up-tempo songs to get kids moving, and Rock All Night, which is mellower for winding down.

"[The album] is mostly traditional, but there are a couple original songs on there," Shepherd says. "One of the songs I really like on here is one of my all-time favorite songs, 'Wild Mountain Thyme.' They sing the song here with their dad, and I think it's a great version."

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