October 7, 2010
Seattle’s Brian Vogan is one of those makers of children’s music whose songs, if you don’t listen to the lyrics, sound like they could be adult pop-chart hits from over the years. On their latest album, Sing a Little Song, he and his band, His Good Buddies, dabble in various genres, but present throughout is the influence of 1980s new wave, both the British (XTC, Nick Lowe, dare I say even Adam and the Ants?) and American (the Cars, late Talking Heads) varieties.
What that means is that while your kids will love these songs—mine were immediately asking to hear several tracks over and over, like the infectious opener, “How to Fly”—you will find yourself absent-mindedly grooving out as they play in the background of whatever vital parenting thing you’re trying to get done. The vibe is pleasantly familiar, and if the lyrics weren’t about counting and crossing the street and such, you might think you had an ’80s/’90s college-radio station on. (In fact, since Vogan doesn’t sing with a “kiddie” vocal sound in the slightest, and the musicianship and overall production are extremely tight, it’s easy to drift into such thoughts anyway.)
Of course, none of that would matter if the music didn’t appeal to children. But Vogan, an early-childhood music teacher when he’s not on stage or in the studio, has that covered too. His songs may have sophisticated harmonies and a mature sound, but from the Elvis/Big Bopper ’50s rock of “A Tiny Little Frog” to “Last Thanksgiving” (a song about an escaped giant turkey, performed in a Bright Eyes–esque narrative style), his subject matter couldn’t be more on target for its intended audience. He seems to have a knack for coming at subjects from a slightly different angle, even when traveling well-worn paths like space travel and dinosaurs. There’s a refreshing quality to his tunes that keeps kids coming back again and again.
Which is great, since you’ll be happy to tap your toes to these songs repeatedly as well.
[Cover image courtesy of Brian Vogan]