They Might Be Giants. It was hard not to be, when a band of which I had already been a longtime fan chose the period when we had our first child to make a marvelous crossover into kids' music—and proceeded to put out four instant classics, still the strongest series of albums in the genre. Even beyond the high quality and the dazzling ease of their transition (beyond subject matter, TMBG didn't really have to change that much about their sound or songwriting), there was also a personal psychological effect: Look, I thought. I'm listening to They Might Be Giants with my infant son. This parenting thing doesn't have to change everything!
Of course, I was dead wrong about that—and not only because my subconscious expectations that Husker Du, the Smiths, and Bauhaus would each reunite to put out kids' albums were never fulfilled. (I'm still holding out hope for Smashing Pumpkins.) I learned to accept that life had changed, a lot, and went on to discover a whole slew of great kids' musicians, some with a history of recordings of "adult music" I wasn't previously familiar with (Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Lunch Money), others with no professional background in music for nonkid audiences at all (Recess Monkey).
Which is why I was so blown away when I heard that L.A.-based masters of eclecticism Ozomatli had moved into the genre and were coming out with a full-length kids' album, Ozomatli Presents OzoKidz. I've been a fan of this band and its unique blend of urban sounds—hip-hop, ska, reggae, and about eight different varieties of Latin music, all fused together by a blistering-hot horn section—since their 1998 debut album. (Whitney and I even had "Cut Chemist Suite" on our wedding-reception playlist.)
Ozomatli wouldn't have been the first band I'd have expected to make the move to kids' music—their sound in their heyday had a satisfyingly hard edge, and they're renowned and somewhat revered for their raucous-good-time live shows. But while the songs on OzoKidz are as a whole a gentler than the sum effect of the band's early albums, I was thrilled to find that they're still absolutely true to their sound—the mixing and melding of musical types is still here, as are those fantastic horns (used to great effect on "Moose on the Loose" and "Balloon Fest," among other tracks).
The result is an uptempo album with suitable kid lyrical content (as the song titles I just mentioned indicate) that kids find irresistible, while retaining enough of the band's sophisticated sound to make parents happy, too. In addition, thanks to Ozomatli we have now discovered, somewhat to my wife's dismay, that four-year-old Griffin loves bachata.
OK, Billy Corgan. You're up.
[Cover image courtesy of Ozomatli]
Update: I just learned right after posting this about the OzoKidz Chalk Art Contest. In the band's words, here's the scoop:
Folks who purchase the new OzoKidz CD at participating independent record stores will receive a FREE OzoKidz chalk box, which contains a link to the bonus track "Vamos a Cantar."
Kids (and parents) everywhere are invited to enter the OzoKidz Chalk Art Contest!
Entry Details: All you have to do is re-create the OzoKidz album cover art on your driveway or sidewalk—or, for the bonus prize, create a visual representation of the bonus track "Vamos a Cantar" using the OzoKidz chalk. Send us photos of your artwork and we'll pick the best ones. Winners will receive an OzoKidz prize pack!
Send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When sending photos, entrants must include the OzoKidz chalk box in the photo. For a list of record stores participating in the chalk-box giveaway, please visit: http://www.recordstoreday.com/Home. Please call your local store to confirm they have the items. For more information and updates, visit www.ozomatli.com/ozokidz.