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July 27, 2012

New Music: Spicy Kid

It's been a summer of plenty for our family when it comes to kids' music: Nearly all our favorite artists have put out new albums, and every one seems to maintain or surpass the respective musicians' previously high standards.

The most recent example is South Carolina's Lunch Money, who hadn't exactly been inactive since their last release a couple of years ago—they've had tracks on some kid-music compliations, and lead singer Molly Ledford has lent her warm, sounds-like-a-smile voice to a number of other bands' albums via guest-track appearances. (Clearly, Lunch Money understands the vital performer's art of leaving its audience wanting more.)

The band's fourth CD, Spicy Kid, gets its name from the gingerbread man of fairy-tale legend, whose point of view is the focus of the album's first track. As with most of these songs, though, there's more going on here than it seems: The album title (shared with that of the second track) serves as a metaphorical jumping-off point for an exploration of kids with attitude, as well.

And all the songs are like this—the album is really directed as much at parents of young children (among which number Ledford counts herself) as at the children themselves. It's definitely the first kids' CD I've heard to get into issues like the feeling of sneaking along the hallway to check on your sleeping child without waking him up ("Awake"), or that moment when you realize the "spell the word out so your kid doesn't understand what you're talking about" ploy isn't gonna work anymore ("S.P.E.L.L.").

Ledford's lyrics—and singing style—handle these subjects with just as much wonder and wryness as the best parent blogs do. And yet (unlike some of those parent bloggers, myself included) she never ends up merely doing the parental version of navel-gazing, either: She always finds a way to provide these lyrics, and the songs as a whole, with a viewpoint that appeals directly to kids as well. (After all, our children have their own perspective on sneaking along hallways at night, don't they?)

All the while, Lunch Money upholds its well-deserved rep as one of the just-plain-best-sounding kid bands around. In fact, between the band's musicianship and Ledford's easy, laid-back vocal style (which has already established her in my mind, at least, as one of the signature voices of today's kindie music), you might take this album to be a strong college-radio outing (with '90s influences like the Lemonheads, R.E.M., and even the softer side of Dinosaur Jr.) if you weren't listening to the lyrics too closely.

All of which is to say: For such an approachable, listener-friendly album, Spicy Kid is pretty darn sophisticated. And I know I always say this with these bands, but we already can't wait to hear what Lunch Money does next.

[Cover image courtesy of Lunch Money]

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