Vampire Weekend (and, in some cases, the Broadway show Fela!) is widespread in today's music for kids, which is full of sunny African sounds and rhythms everywhere you turn. So when I first heard Can't Wait, the second album from Grenadilla, I first assumed it was part of that trend. (When will I learn not to assume things?)
Turns out the band's lead vocalist and songwriter, Debbie Lan, hails from Cape Town herself, and thus has a closer tie to kwela music and the African-style harmonies that inform Grenadilla's sound than the influence of any mere New York City band. Lan also happens to have a marvelous singing voice, clear and warm, that will make parents who are fans of Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, and Natalie Merchant feel right at home; the group's ensemble vocal harmonies are likewise marvelous.
And the kids? Suffice it to say that within 12 bars of the first track on Can't Wait—the infectious "Sitting on Top of the World" (an original, by the way, not the '20s classic made famous by Al Jolson)—my son Dash had left the breakfast table to start dancing in the kitchen. A song that can distract a seven-year-old from pancakes? I'm not sure there's any higher praise for its creators.
[Cover image courtesy of Grenadilla]