Side A

Chromeo – “Nice N Clean”

To be honest, I had a pretty awesome childhood. Thanks, Mom and Dad. Now approaching 30, I look back and ponder the two things that really would have put it over the top: more Power Rangers gear and “Yo Gabba Gabba!” To think, I was forced to learn the importance of washing my hands from my preschool teacher, when kids nowadays get the joy of information from the likes of Chromeo. Amidst a dangerous flu season, the advice courtesy of Dave 1 and P-Thugg is timely, and their signature electro-funk vocoder fun is capable of getting even the most grown of children to chuckle. So go ahead and be a “VCB” – very clean boy – one who always remembers to lather up before playtime. – Derek Staples

They Might Be Giants – “Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas)”

Back in the day (the 1990s), when it came to science lessons disguised as fun, playing “Why Does the Sun Shine?” by They Might Be Giants may have been the best way to entertain while nourishing impressionable young mind this side of Bill Nye. Though the original polka-infused version more slowly and clearly articulates fun facts like “The sun is so large, a million Earths could fit inside, and yet the sun’s just a middle sized star,” the more widely distributed uptempo rendition will get the kids moving while singing the virtues of that “gigantic nuclear furnace, where hydrogen is built into helium, at a temperature of millions of degrees.” If the song sounds overly bookish, that’s because it’s actually a cover of an educational Hy Zaret song from 1959. And lest you worry that some of its facts are scientifically outdated, the band reworked the song for their 2009 children’s album Here Comes Science as “Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma).” Here comes fun! – Josh Goller

The B-52’s – “Wig”

Every parent shudders when they notice, too late, their toddler petting the “kitty cat” loosely glued to the top of Uncle Merv’s head. I will probably be ensuring, if not encouraging, a multitude of social faux pas, but I fully intend on sharing the unadulterated giddiness of “Wig” by the B-52’s with my future troublemaker.

Kids love silliness, and then there is Fred Schneider. I mean, there you go. “What’s that on your head? I say, WHAT’S THAT ON YOUR HEAD?” he sasses in a tone that is suspect of your taste. That wig! It’s been identified! Explain it! Why are you wearing it? It’s horrible! It’s a gas! Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson whoop it up, calling back “Wig! Wig! Wig! Wig! Wig! Wig! Wig! Wig!” like it’s the siren at Party Central. At a tempo sure to tucker out the most hyped-up of kiddos, “Wig” is an excellent primer on camp, absurdity and shaking rumps with your inner goof. Disclaimer: If played in utero, Baby’s first word just might be “bouffant.” – Stacey Pavlick

Akron/Family – “Silly Bears”

I have market-tested proof that “Silly Bears” is a perfect song for the kiddies. Now granted, my two sons (ages 5 and 3 1/2) are a small sample size, but check this: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT came out in early 2011 and it got a generous amount of play in our house. It must have made an impression on our kids because it’s now early 2013 and I cannot get into my car without Jack and Noah imploring me to put on “the silly bears song.” And thank god for that because we certainly dodged a pink elephant-sized bullet in the music department with our kids. Plus, it’s a damn good song. The chugging rhythm coupled with guitarist Seth Olinsky’s nimble, fuzzed-out guitar leads dovetail nicely with the fable-esque lyrics about gentle meadows, ancient forests and honey so sweet. The Akrons have never lost their sense of childlike wonderment throughout their career and it’s a quality that has never served them better than on “Silly Bears”. – Tom Volk

The Beach Boys – “Vega-Tables”

A catchy song can get a kid to do anything, but music geared specifically towards children is often torturously cloying for adult ears. Leave it to Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks – the brains behind this impossibly charming SMiLE Sessions cut that would also find itself on 1967’s stripped back Smiley Smile, as well as Wilson’s fully, finally realized SMiLE album in 2004 – to create an infectious and completely un-ironic ode to produce. With a singalong chorus that promotes staying active, brushing your teeth and getting enough sleep, and culminating in a plea to tell the band “the name of your favorite vegetable,” the bouncy psychedelic pop of “Vega-Tables” is the perfect persuasive tool for children. Just leave your explanation for all the coughing on the song’s bridge for when they’re older. – Peter A. Pompa

Of Monsters and Men – “Mountain Sound”

When I hear the alpine-hued instrumentation of whimsical Of Monsters and Men’s “Mountain Sound” I feel as though a pop-up picture book is unfolding in my imagination. There are craggy mountain goats, lederhosen, the Matterhorn and Alpine chalets that grow from the cuckoo clock-inspired tune. You don’t hear much music that could fit right in with yodeling, but that’s exactly the sort of thing I would have loved as a kid. A bit off, but familiar in a way that connects with storybooks and fantasy. The lyrics are simple, almost inconsequential, like a nursery rhyme: “We sleep until the sun goes down/ Whoa-oh, whoa-oh/ We sleep until the sun goes down,” sing-songs the chorus. The music could probably do without words, as the title suggests. It’s more the evocation of a place that may not be real, in a time we can’t quite pinpoint. It’s where Heidi and Hansel and Gretel live, and pretzels are soft, and elves scamper in the periphery of your vision. What indie kid (and their parents) doesn’t want a moment there? – Tabitha Blankenbiller

Homeboy Sandman – “Mean Mug”

Most hip-hop artists who are championed by critics as being “enlightened” are just soft-batch urban Tipper Gore types looking to blame whatever they can for money and to sell the most uninteresting rap possible to coffee shop poets with horrible facial hair. Homeboy Sandman is NONE of those things, probably because he doesn’t run around on tracks talking about how “deep” he is, but, rather, is focused on making dope music that just so happens to have a positive message. Considering also how exceptionally rare it is that he cusses, Sandman is an ideal MC to start young listeners off with. While I was tempted to suggest last year’s “For the Kids,” 2010’s “Mean Mug” is probably the most valuable lesson that kids need to learn at an early age. It’s about time somebody spoke up about people looking like jerks, and any movement encouraging smiling is one I can get behind. – Chaz Kangas

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One Comment

  1. KingP

    January 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Think twice before you introduce your kid to your hipster oeuvre. The adult concept of liking, even loving a song is far different from that of a three-year-old.

    Did you ever like the Pixies’ “Trompe le Monde?” Would you enjoy ten minutes of it every morning for two months a la “Groundhog Day?”

    That’s what happens.


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