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March 10, 2011

New(ish) Music: Original Friend

Back when I included Lunch Money's latest album in my best-of-2010 list, I promised to give it a writeup of its own—only fair, since all the other albums included got one. And I always keep my promises...eventually.

Luckily for me, it’s easy to write about Original Friend several months after I first heard it—because it's became such a favorite of our two boys that it's joined the select few albums that rarely, if ever, leave the CD changer. (It's joined the likes of Recess Monkey, They Might Be Giants, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and Frances England—the latter two of whom do guest spots Original Friend, actually. It’s CD-changer synergy!)

The word I'd use to describe Lunch Money's songs is infectious—they have a pleasantly jangly sound that will be comfortably familiar to parents in their 30s and 40s, who will inevitably find themselves toe-tapping a lot as the album plays. Songwriter and lead singer Molly Ledford has a knack for not only remembering but crystallizing moments of childhood. And she's always matter-of-factly good-humored without getting anywhere near that cloying tone most parents can't abide; her vocal style has a warmth, as well as pacing, that always put me in mind of the Pretenders. (Yes, I find Chrissie Hynde’s singing warm. Is that weird?)

On this, their third album, the band has expanded beyond its guitar-bass-drums core with some nifty string and horn arrangements on slower tracks like “Getaway Car” and the R.E.M.-ish ballad “Follow Me Home.” But it’s their trademark upbeat indie-pop songs—the title track and especially the grin-inducing “I Want to Push Buttons”—that form the backbone of the album. The guest artists slide in nicely, too, with England, a similar songwriter and vocalist, fitting in seamlessly on "You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles," and 23 Skidoo typically sharp with his rhymes in the clever "Come Over to My Dollhouse."

It all adds up to one of the best albums I've heard not just in the past year, but in my five years of covering kids' music. So really, it’s about time it got its own post!

[Cover image courtesy of Lunch Money]

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