Kimya Dawson's "Alphabutt" -- weird, jangly, hilarious awesome music for kids

Anti-folk icon Kimya Dawson's latest album is Alphabutt, a collection of hilarious, catchy, scatological kids' music that's sure to delight parents who are weary of treacly children's songs. If your kids are going to sing a song over an over again, isn't it better if the song goes, "A is for Apple, B is for Butt, C is for Cat-butt, D is for Doo-Doo, E is for Elephant-butt, F is for Fart, G is for Gorilla-fart, H is for Hairy Gorilla-fart"?

Like millions of others, I discovered Dawson's music through the film Juno -- a pretty good movie with a totally killer soundtrack, and Dawson's contributions to it are the standouts. I've since bought all her music and now I find myself singing her catchy, funny, rude tunes all the time. I've been listening to Alphabutt around the clock for weeks now, and singing the songs to my daughter, who enjoys their off-kilter, jangly humor even though she's too small to get the words yet.

Though this is kids' music, it's pure Dawson -- weird and irreverent and jangly, with charming guest vocals from her two-year-old daughter Panda Bear and many guest singers. The tracks range from sweet and weird to funny and weird, and they're shot through with compassion, wit and talent. From songs about pregnancy neurosis ("Smoothie") to toilet training ("Pee-Pee in the Potty") to surviving the pressure to conform ("Keep on Writing") to pure delightful nonsense ("Seven Hungry Tigers"), this album is an absolute knockout. Alphabutt


  1. Couldn’t help but notice that the brown, uh, creature on the right appears to be penetrating the black sheep.

  2. ahh come on, you never heard of the moldy peaches? how could you miss em and their huge manity goodness :o(

  3. FINISTERRE: Which makes it even better.

    I love Ms Dawson, an despite the fact I don’t currently have a kid, I’ll most probably give it more than one listen.

    Her music is a lovely salve for a (sometimes) shitty world.

  4. I was lucky enough to see her live in Wellington in June. She sang the Alphabutt song, it was a riot. Everyone was there, adults, teen hipsters, even babies. One started crying, and she remarked, “someone who speaks my language!” It was a proper all-ages show.

  5. “If your kids are going to sing a song over an over again, isn’t it better if the song goes, “A is for Apple, B is for Butt, C is for Cat-butt,…”

    Uh, no?

  6. I may be in the minority here, but for me the only bad part of Juno was Kimya Dawson’s soundtrack. It sounded completely disingenuous to me — a pretentious, self-conscious attempt to write simple music. With the idiotic lyrics and structureless — um — structure, it had all the charm of a fly buzzing around my head.

    I think I’ll stay away from this project, especially with the scatological lyrics. I’m no prude, but there’s enough of that in the world. For my kids, it’s They Might Be Giants’ “NO!” all the way.

  7. @Finisterre: That “brown creature” is clearly a gorilla. Or, given recent news, possibly a hoaxter Bigfoot hunter giving it his all.

  8. I have to agree with Skully here– Kimya Dawson’s Juno tracks were kind of annoying. But not nearly as annoying as the thought of a bunch of toddlers singing about gorilla-farts.

  9. Never heard of her before , but will certainly look for this album. I made up this little song for the kids in my group. And it is extremely funny and wonderful to listen to a bunch of kids running around laughing, while singing over and over “Don’t Stick Your Finger in Your Butt, you smell like a monkey.” Some were still singing days later. The funny bit was the humorless mother who told her kid, “…but we never pick our nose, Honey.” I’m sure she never farts either.

    Don’t stick your finger in your butt
    Don’t stick your finger in your butt
    It’ll make your finger funky
    You’ll smell like a monkey
    Don’t stick your finger in your butt

    Don’t stick your finger in your butt
    It just makes you look like a nut
    You can pick your nose if you must
    But don’t stick your finger in your butt

    It’s not the thing to do
    There’s e-coli in your pooh
    Don’t stick your finger in your butt. Bump. Bump.

  10. What is this, training for them cussing out people on xbox live when their teenagers? I find this pretty innappropriate. I mean, I’m not one to be try and keep subjets of conversation from kids, but there’s no point in actually bringing up challenging topics by giving them a CD, much less have to explain why the bigfoot is banging the sheep. And I sure as hell don’t want to hear a 5 year-old sing scat songs over and over again.

    I think we’ll stick with TMBG in my house.

  11. After having listened to the Amazon previews, I can say, with utter sincerity and great confidence, that if I had to hear that album on repeat 5 times a day, I would throw the stereo out the window and jump on it many, many times.

  12. I was really with you up until “I discovered Dawson’s music through the film Juno” and then I remembered I was in Williamsburgh and that I’ve known about Kimya Dawson for years a la her first band the Moldy Peaches with Adam Green. His solo stuff is great, I have most of his albums on CD, oddly enough. You might also like The Frogs and Stipplicon, though certainly they do not represent the broad swath of music that is anti-folk.

  13. For smart, catchy kid’s music that’s not PC (but also not scatological), don’t forget Barry Louis Polisar ( – he sings terrific songs from a kid’s perspective about getting yelled at, getting stuck in the car on a family trip, not wanting to go to school, losing your baby sister down the drain, or just standing naked on the kitchen table, trying to get someone to pay attention to you. Our three year old is a huge fan.

    (He also landed a track on Juno.)

  14. The highest achievement in children’s music to date is the work of Jim Copp and Ed Brown — who put out a handful of records around the 60s that were masterpieces of bizarre storytelling and infectious melody. I can listen to these songs today, and they remain smarter than most songs written by and for adults. And the stories themselves were sweet and hilarious and sometimes dark. Characters would sometimes die, suddenly and for no reason — but there was nothing shocking or morbid about it. It was just what happened. Anyone with children oughta order some Copp and Brown from Playhouse Records. A nice alternative to sappy kids entertainment as well as the farts and underpants genre of kid’s entertainment that conflates being childlike with being juvenile.

  15. For me, it was the reverse: I am a huuuge Kimya Dawson fan, so a friend surprised me with the Juno soundtrack via iTunes. So then I watched the movie.

    Anyway. This is great! I wasn’t allowed to say ‘fart’ as a kid, and subsequently, I think every kid should be able to say ‘fart.’ I also wasn’t technically allowed to say ‘butt,’ but every time I would say ‘but’ in a sentence, I would also point at my butt. Ah, childhood.

  16. If you go to the k records website you can get the cd for $12 ($3 cheaper than Amazon) or $10 for the LP.
    Also, the AmazonMP3 site will have tracks on Sept. 9th, it looks like.

  17. GRAVYTOP is absolutely right about Jim Copp and Ed Brown. Thankfully, some of their work has been reissued. Also, my daughter learned the names of the days of the week from “Police On My Back” by The Clash.

  18. @JIM #25, ditto that Clash comment. :)

    I think this is fine. There are two distinct issues. The first is whether or not you like Dawson’s style. As well all should know, that’s a simple, subjective question and isn’t worth arguing since its just a matter of taste. You like Kimya or you don’t.

    The other issue is the idea of what’s appropriate in terms of children’s music. I’m a parent of 3 (ages 3, 5, and 7). Like it or not, kids at this age inevitably and to varying degrees become enamored of all the scatalogical crap (bad pun woefully intended). Its not so much about them as it is about the parents. In my case, so long as my kids understand when its OK or not OK to say poop or make farts sounds, I don’t care too much about this other stuff. In fact, one of the ways I feel that I minimize their potential fascination with the subject is by participating (when appropriate, ie before bedtime at home = appropriate, in line at the supermarket = not appropriate).

    This has paid off in that, in my estimation, they properly see poop/pee/fart/etc… in a context of humor rather than of misbehavior or rebellion.

    That said, I’ll probably take a look at this and if the stuff isn’t too over the top or overbearing (which is not Kimya’s style) I’ll take a flyer on it.

  19. You can be horrified by kids saying scat — which insures the words get more power — you can revel in it and raise brats who annoy the rest of the population … or you can just relate that “yeah, poo-poo is kinda funny, but not always the best thing to be saying every five seconds” … this Kimya stuff is very K records, Calvin Johnson, et al. Except that in the late 80s, it was daring and innovative. The soundtrack for Chuck&Buck was filled with this other gal called Gwendolyn, who mined this vein pretty good too. Actually, Gwendolyn worked, because the filmmakers saw this music for what it is — creepy overly-conscious attempts to stay a child forever. This is the angel-wings-wearing crowd at the super expensive arty colleges …

  20. I’m sorry, but Kimya Dawson lost me at the line “I’ll show you my shit stinks”. Shit, hippy, I believe you already.

  21. Seeing as we are reviewing kid’s albums, I’d like to direct you to Duplex, and their cd titled Ablum. The band includes the musical genius Veda Hille, and every track is equally enjoyable by adults and kids alike. My favorite? ‘pooing and peeing at the same time’.
    My kids are grown and gone but these tracks get airtime at my place anyway. These are seriously good tunes, people, available through iTunes and Amazon.

  22. Ah, the classic “programming” view of child-rearing, popular among know-it-all parents worldwide.

    “IF you X, THEN your child will grow into Y.”

    To all the “this will turn your child into a foul-mouthed idiot” and “this will turn your child into a liberated genius” folks, you’re both wrong. Children, like most other humans, form their personalities, worldviews, and habits from a complex web of experiences, role models, and interpretation.

    Try harder, please.

  23. I’m a huge Kimya fan from way back (used to see Moldy Peaches at Sidewalk Cafe in NYC in the 90s). She always went for the poopy jokes, which is fine by me. I think she’s funny, brilliant, and a great writer. However, I’m disappointed with the poopy jokes on Alphabutt. Here’s why:

    from Post #21: I wasn’t allowed to say ‘fart’ as a kid, and subsequently, I think every kid should be able to say ‘fart.’

    So saying “fart” will make your children freer and less hung up than you were? If that were true, that saying “fart” would make every kid well-adjusted, then they should write it on the front of every school in America! We need more “fart”! FART FART FART!

    I just think that our society has gotten ruder and ruder and look where it’s gotten us. Violent, egotistical, rude SOBs. Why is it so important that kids say ‘hairy gorilla fart’? To me, this is a joke for grownups who can understand and process it.

    That being said, you can play this kind of thing for your kids and it will not ruin them, and if saying fart is ok in your family, I’m not saying that’s wrong. It’s your family. But where does one draw the line? Would everybody be laughing if she sang “big hairy gorilla shit” on a kids record and oohing and aahing about how non-conformist, bohemian, and with it Kimya is? “She’s not afraid to tell it to the kids like it is, etc”

    I think kids would have laughed just as loud if she said “hairy gorilla face”. I think with parental guidance you can play anything for children and they’ll come out ok. I listened to the Hair Soundtrack as a kid (with a song about sodomy and fellatio) and look at me lol. We say “gassies” in our family and laugh about it and it’s fine.

    If “fart” is your thing, then by all means go for it. But I find this disappointing because I know that Kimya is an awesome parent and not at all a rude person. I just think she’s better than “fart”, that’s all.

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