The Best CDs in The Stack

by Amy Kraft on August 18, 2011

Remember that giant stack of CDs I had yet to listen to back in June?

Well, there they sat until our vacation, where we started popping them in the rental car one after another as we drove through vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois. It was a great way to catch up (except for the new stack that’s accumulated since…) and I bring you <<drumroll>> the best of The Stack!

“We’re going on vacation…” So sing The Not-Its in their great new album Tag, You’re It! Not only is this a fun vacation album, it’s a great album period. What I noticed listening to a million kids’ CDs back to back is how formulaic they can be, with a hello song, a goodbye song, a song where the artist talks to or sings with kids, and so on. I kept finding myself wishing for more CDs that were just a collection of fun, rockin’ songs, and this fits the bill. I’m particularly fond of the tracks “I Love Food” (duh) and “Hank is a Rock Star”. This is my favorite album in the stack, and it also wins for best cover art.

You might say that The Not-Its were a ringer to rise to the top of the stack, having enjoyed their previous albums so much. By that rationale, another ringer is The Hipwaders with their new album The Golden State. They beckon you to “Come to California” and after listening to this album, you’ll really want to (as if you need convincing to go to California). This is roll down the windows, wind on your fingers, summery rock and roll.

Another particularly vacation-y album is Hullabaloo’s Road Trip. It’s much more country than I usually go for, but its Southern twang was perfect for our jaunt through central Illinois. It’s country of the old-fashioned variety, like it could have been a sountrack for a Burt Reynolds movie. Oh, hang on. Now I’m dreaming about a Cannonball Run update where Burt Reynolds has to race cross country with his grandkids, and Hullabaloo could provide the soundtrack. Wouldn’t be the same without Dom DeLuise, though.

Ozzie’s favorite seems to be Meredith LeVande’s What Are the Odds? It’s full of fun, boppy music that get’s his little diaper butt bouncing. I like the sciency and mathy songs, like “Frogs Eat Butterflies” about food chains and the title track where she literally tells you the odds (1…3…5…7…and 9). Okay, okay, this does start with a “Hello” song and ends with a “Goodbye” song, but Meredith LeVande does it right. The album actually does have an arc through the tracks, and winds down nicely at the end making this Monkey Monkey Music particularly good for the littler monkeys.

On Look Both Ways, ScribbleMonster & His Pals cover 11 Sesame Street songs, starting with a rocking rendition of the theme song. There’s a bit of a punk sensibility to this album and lots of guitars, and the overall effect is more musically Yo Gabba Gabba than Sesame Street, though I have to say the track “Just Happy to Be Me” brought the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to mind.

Speaking of kicking it old school, The Rhymatist had us cracking up in the car with his self-titled album. If you took these lesson-y lyrics (“Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Safety First”, “Counting Song”) and paired them with a smiley singer with an acoustic guitar, I might have had to chuck this CD out the car window. The music is saved from namby-pambyland with some phat beats. I loved rap circa 1991, and this fits right in. I’d love to hear the explicit lyrics version of this album, though.

Putamayo Kids compilations can be pretty hit-or-miss, but Acoustic Dreamland is magic. Billed as “classic and contemporary acoustic songs for bedtime and relaxation,” the music is great for winding down (though perhaps not the best choice while driving or operating heavy machinery). I think I might put it in rotation as a CD I’ll work while listening to. Honestly, the music is so beautiful from start to finish that it makes me weepy.

So there you have it. Now I need to get crackin’ on all those new CDs that have arrived. Dear musicians, thank you for your patience with me, and keep putting out great tunes!

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